#2 Raiders Of The Lost Ark

(1981, Steven Spielberg)

“We have top men working on it right now!”
“Who?”
“Top. Men.”

Indiana Jones is a huge cultural icon. The image of Harrison Ford in a fedora carrying a whip is recognisable to even the most casual of moviegoers. So it stands to reason the movie that started it all would crop up on a list of Movies You Must See Before You Die. But just how good is the film that started the cultural phenomenon?

For those who don’t know about Raiders Of The Lost Ark, it’s essentially a tribute to producer George Lucas’ love of watching adventure serials from the 1930s as a child (his second tribute of this kind following Star Wars), combining elements of those serials with a more contemporary edge. Our hero, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is an archaeologist who adventures around the world seeking out priceless artifacts so that they can be preserved. In Raiders, Indy has been contacted to seek out the Ark Of The Covenant based on intercepted German radio communications, and the movie is a race against time for Indy to get hold of it before the Nazis do.

It opens with a very effective prologue, leaping right into a loosely related adventure which teases us with the introduction of our protagonist, ramps up the tension in a creepy temple and then culminates in the famous chase scene where Indy is pursued by a boulder. It sets the tone for the rest of the movie, and it grips you straight away. It’s a perfect example of what a movie prologue should be.

The movie wears its influences on its sleeve, and is at its heart a compilation of stunts, chases and fights that made up the backbone of Lucas’ beloved serials. But underneath it all, thanks to a fantastic script from Lawrence Kasdan and direction by Steven Spielberg, all these elements come together in a way that hides their mildly derivative nature. The story is solid, and everything is joined together with a wry sense of humour. Plus, all those set-pieces are immense fun to watch, which makes them much more forgivable.

Lucas and Spielberg also rightfully avoided making Indy a square-jawed Superman, showing him getting battered and bruised throughout the course of the film, and showing that he’s clearly making it up as he goes along, and this sometimes causes him problems. Oh, and he’s afraid of snakes. It adds humour, but also makes him more human, so we can identify with him. It’s this human quality that makes the film so memorable and more than just the sum of its parts.

On top of that, the performances here are excellent. Harrison Ford especially takes to his role as Indy, and is possibly his best ever role. John Rhys-Davies puts a great amount of energy into his portrayal of the charismatic Arab, Sallah. Paul Freeman is suitably evil as Indy’s rival Belloq without going over the top.

It’s hard to find fault with Raiders. Sure, it’s not going to initiate any philosophical debate, but it’s an exciting thrill ride of a movie that keeps you entertained for two hours.

Shame the same can’t be said about The Crystal Skull.

Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies & Denholm Elliot
Written by George Lucas & Phillip Kaufman (story) and Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay)
Produced by Frank Marshall, executive producers George Lucas & Howard Kazanjian
Music by John Williams
Cinematography by Douglas Slocombe
Edited by Michael Kahn

Favourite Scene: The Well Of Souls. “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.”
The Scene That Bugged Me: Indy climbs onto a German U-boat and clings to it as it travels a considerable distance. That’s right, ONTO a German U-boat, not INTO. Following montage seems to suggest the sub dives too. HOW DOES INDY BREATHE?!

Watch it if: You want action, such as a man fighting a bigger man on a plane that’s about to explode
Avoid if: You disagree with giant red lines on maps.

Originally posted on Blogspot Tuesday 11 October 2011

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Posted on March 10, 2012, in 1980s, Action, Adventure and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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