- Title: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- Director: Steven Spielburg
- Date: 1989
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Adventure, Action
- Cast: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, River Phoenix, Denholm Elliott, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover
- Format: Color, Widescreen
- Format: R1, NTSC
It’s always hard for me to say which is my favorite Indiana Jones movie — “Raiders” or “Last Crusade“. “Raiders” introduces the great character, and Marion is a great, feisty, independent woman, and it has a good plot — but the snakes still gross me out. On the other hand, “Last Crusade“, is, again, like “Raiders” a great adventure, set in relatively short “episodes” that span the world, from Indy’s childhood in Utah to his working as a college professor, to Venice, to Berlin, to Austria, to the hiding place of the Holy Grail. But “Last Crusade” also brings back the great secondary characters of Marcus Brody and Sallah who were missing from “Temple of Doom“. And there’s the great relationship between Indiana Jones and Henry Jones, Sr.
Which is why, though it wouldn’t exist without “Raiders“, Last Crusade slightly edges out “Raiders” as my favorite. “Last Crusade”, at its core is about a father and son journeying to discover each other as much as it is a great adventure tale about a search for the Holy Grail. And the film, as I briefly mentioned before, brings back Marcus Brody and Sallah, both from “Raiders” and both sorely missed in “Temple of Doom“. And neither character just appears just so they can be listed in the credits — both have important parts to play in the plot, especially Marcus. Sean Connery, is perfectly cast as Indiana Jones’ father. I love the relationship between the two — prickly, yet fun. “Last Crusade” is a fun adventure-filled movie, with lots of great and quotable lines. But it also has heart — when Henry Jones Sr. thinks Indy has died he is truly crushed, and we feel his pain. When the Nazis shoot Indy’s father in front of him to force Indy to get the Grail, it’s a shocking moment, and we feel Indy’s shock and pain — not to mention he’s about to lose his father. Indiana ends up obtaining the Grail to save his father, not for his own aggrandizement, like Harry Potter with the Philosopher’s Stone in that film and book. In other words, he didn’t want it to keep it. And like the Stone, the Grail heals Henry Sr.
And isn’t Julian Glover just a perfect villain?
River Phoenix really is well cast as young Indiana Jones. The opening sequence is also great — not only is it full of adventure itself, but we see Indiana become our Indiana, the hero we love. The transition from the treasure hunter putting the hat on Indiana to the shot of Harrison Ford in the rain, attempting to recover the same artifact, is perfect. And speaking of great shots – the first shot of Sean Connery as Henry Jones, Sr, as he steps into the light is also perfect. And what can be a more satisfying a ending to a movie than our heroes, Indiana, Henry, Sallah, and Marcus, as riding off into the sunset?
The structure of the film, like Raiders, is again of short episodes, linked into a longer story, which keeps the film moving and the adventure level high. In some ways, the film is a chase film, as much as it is a Quest. And it’s also a Quest of characters of the Joneses coming to know each other as well as the Quest for the Holy Grail.