The third installment in the widely beloved Spielberg/Lucas Indiana Jones saga begins with an introduction to a younger Indy (played by the late River Phoenix), who, through a fast-paced prologue, gives the audience insight into the roots of his taste for adventure, fear of snakes, and dogged determination to take historical artifacts out of the hands of bad guys and into the museums in which they belong. A grown-up Indy (Harrison Ford) reveals himself shortly afterward in a familiar classroom scene, teaching archeology to a disproportionate number of starry-eyed female college students in 1938. Once again, however, Mr. Jones is drawn away from his day job after an art collector (Julian Glover) approaches him with a proposition to find the much sought after Holy Grail. Circumstances reveal that there was another avid archeologist in search of the famed cup — Indiana Jones' father, Dr. Henry Jones (Sean Connery) — who had recently disappeared during his efforts. The junior and senior members of the Jones family find themselves in a series of tough situations in locales ranging from Venice to the most treacherous spots in the Middle East. Complicating the situation further is the presence of Elsa (Alison Doody), a beautiful and intelligent woman with one fatal flaw: she's an undercover Nazi agent. The search for the grail is a dangerous quest, and its discovery may prove fatal to those who seek it for personal gain.
Not as good as the first one, but better than the second. That’s been the consensus opinion regarding Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
, the final installment in Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ original adventure trilogy, throughout the nearly two decades since its 1989 theatrical release. It’s a fair assessment. After the relatively dark and disturbing Temple of Doom
(1984), The Last Crusade
(1989) recalls the sheer fun of Raiders of the Lost Ark
(1981). With its variety of colorful locations, multiple chase scenes (the opening sequence on a circus train, with River Phoenix as the young Indy, is one of the best of the series, as is the boat chase through the canals of Venice), and cloak-and-dagger vibe, it’s the closest in tone to a James Bond outing, which director Spielberg has noted was the inspiration for the trilogy in the first place; what’s more, it harkens back to Raiders
in its choice of villains (i.e., the Nazis--Indy even comes face to face with Hitler at a rally in Berlin) and its quest for an antiquity of incalculable value and significance (the Holy Grail, the chalice said to have been the receptacle of Christ's blood as he hung on the cross). Add to that the presence of Sean Connery, playing Indy’s father and having a field day opposite Harrison Ford, and you’ve got a most welcome return to form.--Sam Graham