Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (12A)



Action (2008)
122mins US

Starring: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Ray Winstone
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer(s): David Koepp
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Following an encounter with Soviet agents led by villainous Irina Spalko at the height of the Cold War, Professor Jones returns home to Marshall College with his plucky sidekick Mac. The dean of the college reports that government forces are putting pressure on him to fire Indiana. Shocked by this turn of events, Indiana decides to leave town for a while and is intercepted by Mutt, a young man with a tantalising proposition: if the archaeologist will help him carry out a deeply personal mission, Mutt will lead Indiana and Mac to the legendary Crystal Skull of Akator.

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LondonNet Film Review
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

The most eagerly anticipated film of the summer takes its sweet time cutting to the first chase (a spectacular shootout in the warehouse from the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark), but we won't: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is only half of a great movie...

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Paramount Pictures UKDuring the action sequences, when director Steven Spielberg is on a sure footing, this fourth film in the blockbusting series is an absolute joy, delivering adrenaline-pumping thrills and spills interspersed with smart one-liners like when Indy attempts to swing onto an accelerating jeep but miscalculates the speed and trajectory. "Damn, I thought that was closer!" he rues. It's a glorious nostalgia trip, returning to the good ole days when the hero actually bleeds during a fistfight, or he risks life and limb by leaping from one moving vehicle to the next without the aid of hidden wires or digital trickery. Unfortunately, the hocus pocus storyline holding all these breathtaking set pieces together is both gossamer thin and preposterous.

About 40 minutes into the film, Indiana (Harrison Ford) sits in a diner and delivers a potted history lesson on crystal skulls, explaining that these dazzling artefacts, possibly of Mayan origin, are rumoured to be vessels for power beyond our wildest imagining. "Power? What kind of power?" asks his young protege excitedly, echoing the thoughts of everyone in the audience. "I don't know kid, it's just a story," replies Indy wearily. You suspect that line is actually screenwriter David Koepp cheekily asking us to forgive the gaping plot holes and sloppy characterization, but you can only cut Indy so much slack.

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Paramount Pictures UKThe ramshackle narrative begins at an airfield in 1957 Nevada where our fedora-clad adventurer and pal Mac (Ray Winstone) first encounter villainous Soviet agent Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) and her gun-toting goons. Indy whip-cracks and wisecracks his way out of trouble, and returns to Marshall College where Dean Stanforth (Jim Broadbent) asks the professor to take "an indefinite leave of absence". A chance encounter at the railway station with a rebellious greaser called Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), an acquaintance of Indy's old pal Professor Oxley (John Hurt), sets the archaeologist on a quest to locate the legendary Crystal Skull of Akator. Alas, Irina and her henchmen also seek the artefact, and they intend to use Indy to find it - by threatening to kill old flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) if he doesn't help him.

It's been almost 20 years since Ford last flexed his trusty bullwhip as the eponymous treasure hunter but he's in remarkably good shape for his pensionable years, performing many of his own stunts. Still, the script continually pokes fun at his age, like when Mutt looks around the professor's home and quips, "What are you, like 80?" There are plentiful visual and verbal references to earlier films, with fond farewells for Sean Connery and Denholm Elliott and a tantalising glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant, plus a welcome return for Marion, the love of Indy's life. She generates delicious sexual tension with Ford's grouchy adventurer and you end up wishing her character could have been introduced much earlier to perk up a dull, plot-driven middle section. A centrepiece action sequence in the jungle is enlivened no end by the banter between the former lovers, ending when Marion asks Indy if has seen many women since he cruelly dumped her. "There were a few, but they all had the same problem," he replies. "What's that?" she asks. "They weren't you, honey," he smirks.

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Paramount Pictures UKBlanchett is underserved, which is a pity because she has great fun with the role and an almost comical accent that leaves Indy in no doubt of her villain's Communist origins. "The way you're sinking your teeth into all those wubble u's, I should think Eastern Europe..." he surmises. LaBeouf screeches into shot on a motorcycle with the look of a young Marlon Brando in The Wild One, but he doesn't have the same macho swagger. His character only really comes to the fore during the breathtaking jungle sequence by engaging Irina in a sword fight while standing astride two fast moving jeeps, then swinging through the trees like Tarzan. If there were any lingering doubt that Mutt is being lined up to accept the mantle of Indy's fedora in subsequent films, the sentimental ending makes it explicit.

- Jo Planter

Trailer 1

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Trailer 2

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Indy's House Featurette

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