Each Indiana Jones movie brought something to the franchise. Raiders, a fantastic sense of adventure; Temple of Doom, horror; The Last Crusade a brilliant sense of humour and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull… um… CGI gophers? Indestructible fridges? Shia Labeouf swinging through trees with monkeys?… I shouldn’t be negative, for here I am reviewing Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of, if not the, best adventure films of all time.
Everything works in Raiders. The script is smashing, the performances perfect, and the direction dazzling; Spielberg at his best. After making two of the greatest blockbusters of the seventies with Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, he started the eighties by harnessing the novelty of the adventure serials of the 1930s, much as Star Wars had with science-fiction serials of the same period. The formula of falling from one bad situation into another works wonderfully here. The perfect example being the infamous opening with Jones going after a golden idol in South America, the moment he grabs it everything starts to go wrong.
The action throughout is quite amazing and is greatly helped by Harrison Ford’s marvellous lead performance. He sells all the action through the genuine fear on his face. Never has a man looked more worried… well maybe Hans Gruber as he fell from Nakatomi Plaza. This ability of Ford’s to look scared and vulnerable made all his classic action films far more relatable. But its not just Ford that makes this film, there is not a single weak performance. Karen Allen is great as the feisty love interest. Paul Freeman provides the best villain of the series and possibly the only one who doesn’t play it like a character from Adams West’s Batman (I’m looking at you Cate Blanchett). And both Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies provide fantastic allies for Jones.
But everyone is a star here; in front of and behind the camera. John Williams composed one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis (John Landis’ wife) created some iconic costumes and Douglas Slocombe’s cinematography is gorgeous. This is to name just a few amazing contributions.
For this current release on IMAX Spielberg has enhanced the sound but made no other alterations. A testament to just how perfect the film is. Or maybe he and Lucas have just learnt to LEAVE THEIR FILMS ALONE!!! We love them already.