Saturday 2 April 2022

Movie Review: Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)

A boisterous adventure, the third episode of Indiana Jones' cinematic exploits regains momentum with non-stop, fun-filled, and over-the-top antics.

In a prologue set in 1912, 13-year-old boy scout Indiana Jones (River Phoenix) tangles with artefact thieves raiding Utah caves in search of the coveted Coronado crucifix. In 1938, Jones (Harrison Ford) is an archeology professor and adventurer, and finally retrieves the cross off Portugal's coast. He places it in the care of his friend and museum curator Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott). 

Jones and Brody are then hired by tycoon Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) to continue the search for the legendary Holy Grail. Indiana's father Henry (Sean Connery), a lifelong researcher of Grail mythology, was leading Donovan's search team but has now gone missing. At a Venice library, Jones and Brody join forces with Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) and uncover a crypt with critical clues. But a secret society wants to prevent anyone from locating the Grail, while evil Nazis are eager to find it as part of their quest for world domination and are holding Henry prisoner at an Austrian castle.

After the dark, lacklustre, cult-obsessed, and physically confined Temple Of Doom, director Steven Spielberg and executive producer George Lucas were on a mission to recapture the wild but light-hearted thrill-a-minute spirit of the original. With the help of an energetic and often witty Jeffrey Boam script, they succeed on all fronts. 

The Last Crusade brings back the signature elements of Indiana Jones' universe. Nazis lusting for power, a strong and smart woman capable of holding her own, a worthy central villain, a fabled treasure justifying all the greed, and dependable sidekicks all make a triumphant return. And this is a geographically expansive globe-trotting adventure bouncing from Venice to Austria to ─░skenderun, and from sea to sky to desert. 

Conceiving a Sean Connery father role is a masterstroke, finally rounding Indiana into a human with a meaningful family background where previously there was only a hero. The spikey father-son dynamic adds immeasurably to the level of enjoyment, Connery bringing a caustic yet good-natured and care-free attitude to Henry. Interested more in books than family, he was never a good father to Indiana, and the clever tension between them is handled with sly mischievousness. Amidst all the madcap excitement, a savior's clumsy quest to reconnect with his dad adds a welcome reminder about what matters.

The highlights are many, all of them over-long and exhilarating. Young Indiana's escape from the cave thieves encompasses a circus train, and contains foundational introductions to the whip, hat, snakes, and the scar on Harrison Ford's chin. The excursion into the Venetian crypt takes forever, with rats and more rats receiving star billing. Plenty of fun is found at the Austrian castle, particularly a rotating wall with fire on one side and Nazis on the other. A James Bond-style power boat chase is followed by a dogfight in the skies then a desert convoy featuring a 1930s tank and a steep cliff drop-off. And the climax is staged in a temple with numerous puzzles to be solved on the way to locating the Grail.

With never a moment to pause, Indiana Jones And The Lost Crusade delivers on the promise of logic-free, breathlessly manic, funny, and star-powered entertainment. 

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.


  1. My favourite Indy - and, dare I say it, very underrated when you consider how rarely it's mentioned. Seems like Raiders is the one that gets all the respect.

    1. Raiders will always have the "first of the series" badge, but Last Crusade is a great chapter, and an excellent recovery from Temple of Doom.

  2. Agreed. Though Raiders is excellent too, I find it less visually interesting as it's set mostly in the desert - a location that can be a bit samey after a while! Crusade, though, globe-trots. Here's hoping the fifth one is good too!


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