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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Movie Review

Returning to the formula of Raiders, this third chapter might not be as original as Tempel but contains more heart than any of its predecessors!

Genre: Action / Adventure

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody, Denholm Elliott, Julian Glover, John Rhys-Elliott, Michael Byrne, Robert Eddison, Richard Young & River Phoenix.

Run Time: 127 min.

US Release: 24 May 1989

UK Release: 30 June 1989

German Release: 14 September 1989

It’s Throwback Thursday, which means another review of the Indiana Jones franchise! With my analyses of Raiders of the Lost Ark plus Temple of Doom already posted, it is time to take a closer look at the third instalment: The Last Crusade. Though the first adventure might be the technically superior flick and the sequel wins points in originality, this closing chapter of the original trilogy is my favourite, due to the reason that it has more heart! So, throw on your fedoras, take your satchels and follow me into the depths of my review for Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade!


When Dr. Henry Jones Senior goes missing while searching for the Holy Grail, an art collector approaches his son, legendary archaeologist Henry “Indiana” Jones Junior, to find his father, as he continues the search for the religious relict. The hunt for the goblet will put Indy on the crosslines of his old enemies, the Nazis, who are after its legendary powers. Jones will soon need to choose what is more important to him; the artefacts or family.

Though the second instalment of the series had been a success at the box office, the criticism of it being too mean-spirited had been heard by director Steven Spielberg and franchise creator George Lucas. The two opted to create a more lighthearted film, bringing back several elements from Raiders. Prior ideas came to mind, using a haunted mansion in Scotland as a prologue, which included the Grail, then moving onwards with the Fountain of Youth, set in Africa. Chris Columbus was hired to write the script, which included a previous idea with the Monkey King, setting it in Africa.

Following a second draft by Columbus in mid-1985, a team was sent to scout for filming locations. Ultimately, the whole concept was dropped due to reservations about portraying Africans in a negative light. Spielberg suggested introducing Indiana’s father Henry Jones Sr. Lucas was unsure, as he thought the focus should lie in the hunt for the grail. The director convinced him that including a father-son relationship, would serve as a perfect metaphor for the artefact’s search, a key point left intact. Menno Meyjes was hired to write the script.

A third rewrite was performed by screenwriter Jeffrey Boam, which saw a treatment largely similar to the final product, with Indy finding his father in the middle of the plot, switching the focus to their relationship. The meaning of Jones’ search for his own identity, as he comes to accept his father, is a more personal adventure than simply scavenging for an item. It was also Boam, who took Conneries suggestion to add more comedy into the dialogues, and who included the “Young Indiana” prologue.

The prologue, dated back to 1912, includes events of the characters' creators. Young Henry being a boy scout, is due to the director having been one himself. The bullwhip that lashes his chin, is a trivia to actor Harrison Ford, who scared his chin in a car accident. The taking of his nickname from his Alaskan Malamute is a reference to Lucas naming the character after his dog.

Harrison Ford returned as the titular character, liking the introduction of Jones’ father, as it gave him the opportunity to approach his role from a different angle. As such, Indy is much more juvenile in this chapter, falling back to childish traits once his father comes into play. River Phoenix had been cast at the recommendation of Ford, who worked with the adolescent actor in The Mosquito Coast. Ford had high praise for Phoenix, including that out of all young actors, he was the one that resembled him most as a teenager. Phoenix managed to capture Ford's mannerisms extremely well.

Spielberg confessed that when creating the role of Henry Sr., he always envisioned Sean Connery in the role. Having been a great fan of the Bond franchise, he said that no one could have performed the role as well as him. The Scottish actor initially refused the offer, though was won over by the archaeological aspect of the story. Connery, who is a student of history himself, reshaped the character to a Richard Francis Burton type of man. A gruff, Victorian Scottish father, who was more preoccupied to hunt for the grail than raising his boy.

Returning characters from the first flick, such as Marcus Brody or Sallah, were once again played by Denholm Elliot and John Rhys-Davies respectively. Brody obtained this time a larger role, following Indiana on his adventure, searching for his missing father.

The villains are once again the Nazis, who are searching for the Holy Grail, to obtain everlasting life. Elsa Schneider, played by a magnificent Alison Doody, is sent by the Nazis as a black widow, meant to entice Jones, motivate him in finding the relic, then get rid of him. She falls unexpectedly for him. Then there is Julian Glover as Walter Donovan, an American businessman and the real mastermind behind the hunt. He works in coalition with the Nazi party, out of the desire to obtain immortality.

A lot of the camera work resembles that of Raiders, including the introductory scene, which shows a man in a leather jacket plus fedora standing with his back to the camera. This turns out to be a bait'n switch, as it is someone from Jones’ childhood. Though similar to the first action adventure, the imagery this time around is less grimy. Specific camera angles, as well as focus, are used to give a number of scenes different meanings; from comedic to dramatic. Shadows are once again used effectively, however, it is a much brighter picture.

Effects were once again handled by Lucas’ ILM company, building a 2.4-metre large foam replica of the Zeppelin, that complemented the scenes in which Jones junior and senior climbed into a plane. For the detachment, a 60-centimetre wingspan biplane model had been used. Stop-motion animation was implemented into the scene, where a German plane crashes into a tunnel. Extensive bluescreen segments were used throughout the film, as well as matte paintings.

The trials that guard the grail were a mix of bluescreens, matte paintings plus miniature models. Donovan’s death is a complex combination of practical effects and puppet models that are trick-edited together.

John Williams returned once more, to compile the movie's soundtrack, building upon the franchise’s already superb ng score, with ominous soundtracks, fun melodies, just like adventurous orchestral themes.


Verdict: There isn’t much that I can add, that hasn’t already been said about this epic concluding title to the original trilogy. It is definitely my favourite instalment of the saga, just like an incredible second sequel to an already fantastic first action-adventure. The topic of the struggling relationship between a father and his son, is a perfect metaphor for the search for god. Neither of the two lead characters are really in that much hurry to obtain the artefact, nor stop the villains from getting to it, rather seeking respect from one another. Harrison Ford manages to portray Indiana from a completely different perspective, humanising him even more. Sean Connery is perfect as the aged historian, who reprimands his son’s every move. The return of the Nazi threat might feel repetitive, yet works very well. The cinematography is brilliant, using shot composition, as well as different angles to accentuate themes. The effects, while looking at times a bit rough now, were astounding for its time. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade absolutely deserves a 10 out of 10!

So, what is your relationship with this action-adventure trilogy? Did you experience it as a child? Which movie is your favourite? Do you agree with my review? Leave a comment in the section below & as always, thank you for reading!


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