Summer Movie Showdown: "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" Review

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The third installment in the beloved Spielberg/Lucas action-adventure saga has its title character (played by Harrison Ford) battling the Nazis, who have launched an expedition to uncover the whereabouts of the Holy Grail. Joining Indy on his hunt for the prized artifact is Dr. Henry Jones (Sean Connery), his long lost father. An avid archaeologist, Dr. Jones had also been looking for the Grail before he disappeared during the mission.
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Summer Movie Showdown: "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" Review

Rating: PG-13
Length: 127 minutes
Release Date: May 24, 1989
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Action/Adventure

"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is the final film of the original trilogy of Indiana Jones films. After a lackluster performance from "The Temple of Doom," "Last Crusade" rivals the original film "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in fan opinion. The film focuses on globetrotting archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his search for the fabled Holy Grail, and it features Indy's father, Henry Jones (Sean Connery).

The film opens with a brief sequence showing various aspects of Indy's life and appearance, such as the bullwhip, fedora, and fear of snakes. He is on a Boy Scout trip and happens across some thieves looting the area for treasure. He picks up a gold cross, leads the thieves on a chase, and loses the cross. The film flashes forward to 1939, where Indy is being interviewed by Walter Donovan, a wealthy contributor to the museum. He and his team, including Indy's father, have begun searching for the Holy Grail based on clues from a tablet. However, Professor Jones has disappeared, so Indy travels to Venice, Italy, to pick up the trail where he left off.

Once in Venice, Indy meets with a fellow archaeologist, Elsa Schneider. They navigate the catacombs under Venice and find another inscription of the tablet. Some mercenaries attempt to stop them and reveal that Henry Jones is being held in a German castle for questioning so the Nazi party can get their hands on another supernatural artifact.

After a daring rescue and escape, the two Joneses make their way to the Holy Land, following a map in Henry Jones' diary, with the Nazis on their tail. It turns out that Donovan has been working with the Nazi party the whole time. Whereas they want the Grail for power, he wants the immortality it supposedly grants, and he coerces Indy to get it. Indy navigates traps and meets a knight of the Crusades, who warns of the danger of picking the wrong Grail. Donovan picks the wrong cup and dies horribly, and Indy picks the right one and uses it to heal his father's injuries. They then ride off into the sunset, sans Elsa, who died in the temple.

The film creates a different mood than the other "Indiana Jones" films. For the first time, we see a side of Indy that seems regretful. His father had never spent a great deal of time with him as a boy, reflecting Spielberg's own relationship with his parents. However, over the course of the adventure, father and son become closer as Henry acclimates to Indy's adventurous lifestyle. Both Joneses had their own passions: Indy wanted to find the Ark of the Covenant in the first movie, and Henry wanted to find the Holy Grail. Indy gradually caught onto the quest. In the Grail's temple, we witness how Indy truly feels about his father when we see him desperately trying to stem the bleeding from a gunshot, and how quickly he uses the water from the true Grail to heal the wounds.

"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" also has arguably one of the most frightening moments in the series. When Donovan makes it into the Grail chamber and picks the wrong cup, he drinks from it. The knight had warned that the false Grail would take life. Sure enough, he begins aging and decaying into a skeleton. It ranks with the face-melting in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in sheer goriness and is a contributing factor to the movie's PG-13 rating.

As would be expected with any "Indiana Jones" film, it is full of over-the-top action scenes. From the chase along the river to the motorcycle and airplane segments in Berlin and the final standoff near the Grail Temple, the film has Indy mowing through Nazi soldiers left and right, even killing three of them with a single bullet. Henry Jones at one point uses a fountain pen to blind one of his captors. All of these things are part of the charm. The whole franchise was intended to be a throwback to 1930s adventure serials that George Lucas liked.

"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is considered to be one of the two best films in the franchise, tied with "Raiders of the Lost Ark." It has a high-stakes struggle, interpersonal relationship development, and a fitting close to Indiana's story arc, until "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" resumed the story.

Rating: 4 out of 5