Film: 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'; Cast: Harrison Ford, Ray Winstone, Cate Blanchett, Shia Lebouff, Karen Allen; Director: Steven Spielberg; Ratings: ***
'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' could be the surprise Hollywood hit of the year. When news first leaked that the triumvirate of Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were planning another Indiana Jones movies, lot of people just didn't think there was any need to.
The production from the beginning was plagued, especially with the script. The filmmakers had to wait a long time for the right script, and though not as quite as good, the script, actors, action and direction come together just enough to make this a satisfactory movie. More than anything else, it is a pleasant surprise.
Spielberg smartly preserves the essence of the first three "Indiana Jones" movies and repackages them with enough freshness for today's world. The formula, which made the Indiana Jones movies popular, is tried and tested and this movie could have crushed by its own weight.
Spielberg also avoids the trap of loading the movies with computer-generated effects. Some of the most thrilling moments in the film are pared down action sequences filmed employing traditional film making methods.
The 65-five-year-old Ford doing all his stunts here puts in a credible performance. His aged face is not made to look any younger than he is. Ford still manages to pull off that arrogant scowl with just enough sprinkling of charm. The action sequences will seem even more impressive when considered that Ford did his own stunts.
The weakest part of the movie is the script and its almost comical story line. It's best not to make too much sense of such things as the crystal skull in question and what it means and why it is such a big deal. This is an action adventure movie and it strives to deliver along that line.
The movie is set in 1957 and the Soviets want to find the crystal skull, which supposedly holds the secrets of the universe. They are led by Irina Spalko (Blanchett). Jones (Ford) is taken captive by Spalko but he escapes. He returns to his teaching job but has to leave since the Federal Bureau of Investigation is on his trail.
Just before he leaves, he is stopped by Mutt (Shia Lebouf) who insists Jones has to help him find a man he thinks of as a father figure. This takes them to Peru and eventually they have to ward off the Soviets as they all seek the realm of the crystal skull.
The movie is well-paced and Spielberg at those places where he could have splurged on the computer generated effects takes a more bare bones approach. One of the more thrilling action sequences involves a chase through the Amazon forest as they fight for possession of the crystal skull. When it does slow down, the movie feels flat.
The humour isn't spiky enough and the reunion between Jones and Mary, who we meet in 'Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark' fails to enthral. It seems thrown in at the last minute to add some sense of nostalgia.
The actors all give credible performances. Blanchette is proving to be one of the most reliable actresses and she shines here as usual. Ray Winstone's part of Mac is woefully underdeveloped and a fine actor is clearly wasted here.
Spielberg is already an institution and after having made some heavy serious films he feels no pressure to prove himself a genuine filmmaker. With this movie he seems to have fun and that clearly shows. It is a fun movie with just enough charm, action and adventure to satisfy.