Movie Review | Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

A legendary series for multiple decades now, the Indiana Jones franchise has captivated audiences yet again with its thrilling blend of action, adventure, comedy, and historical exaggeration. Now, the legendary archaeologist is returning to the big screen in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Directed and co-written by James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted, 1999 and Walk the Line, 2005), the film delivers the same level of excitement and accompanying silliness that fans have come to expect from the franchise. One of the first things that grabs your attention when discussing this installment is the star-studded cast. Of course, at the center of it all is the incomparable Harrison Ford, reprising his iconic role as Indiana Jones. At the spry age of 78, Ford proves that age is just a number as he (looking very good, I might add) steps back into the rugged boots of the adventurous professor. 

Joining him is the talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge, known for her incredible performances in Fleabag and Killing Eve. With Waller-Bridge on board, fans can expect a dynamic energy to compliment Ford's seasoned presence.

In addition to Ford and Waller-Bridge, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny features an impressive ensemble cast. Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore, Mads Mikkelsen, and Karen Allen, round out the roster. Whether it succeeds or fails in your eyes, you know it won’t be for a lack of talent.

The plot of the film takes place in the 1960s, a time of great social and political change. This backdrop sets the stage for an adventure that is not only action-packed, but also reliably comical (if also improbable and unrealistic). We’ve come to expect the latter from each new Indiana Jones film.

One of the most intriguing elements of the film is the inclusion of the Dial of Destiny, which serves as the driving force of the narrative. Little is known about the dial, but its name alone sparks curiosity and a sense of wonder. What power does it possess? What secrets does it hold? More engrafting than this, however, is the personal loss that Jones struggles with. Beyond that, it's got it all...beefy bad guys, sharp personality contrasts, beady-eyed villains, and witty lines. And for the record, slightly exaggerated characters are almost a requirement for an Indiana Jones movie. 

With Mangold at the helm, fans can rest assured that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny will be well-directed and will take advantage of its legendary lead, not to mention the events of the story of the previous installment, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with Shia LeBeouf. Mangold, known for his work on Logan and Ford v Ferrari, has proven his ability to handle high-stakes action sequences while also grounding the story with emotional depth. Both boxes checked, I can say assuredly.

The screenplay, co-written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and David Koepp, brings together a wealth of perspectives. Butterworth is known for his work on Edge of Tomorrow and Spectre, while Koepp has previously worked on the screenplay for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

There is a true spirit of the Indiana Jones franchise here. However, one of the missed opportunities of the film is its failure to more fully involve Ford’s age in the film in contrast to Waller-Bridge’s youth. Although the subject is touched on, it fails to fully exploit this to acquire a sense of greater realism. Instead, we have an aged Jones jumping from speeding car to car as he did in his younger days with scarcely a sprained muscle. It does, however, have some delightful nostalgic appearances, which help curb its frequently utilized unrealistic plot-point excursions.

With a stellar cast, ambitious plot, and a team of incredibly talented filmmakers behind the scenes, this installment has all of the ingredients for another memorable Indiana Jones adventure, although it will lag a bit behind the first three films. It is clearly more appealing than the last film.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a thrilling addition to the beloved franchise and will satisfy its fans.