The movie opens with the late River Phoenix portraying a teenage Indy, who already has the knack for getting into trouble. During a boy scouts excursion, he sees a bunch of suspicious looking guys digging up the legendary cross of Coronado. Our young hero believes that its place is in a museum, not in the pockets of these greedy scoundrels, so he yanks it from them and runs away. This leads to the first of a series of breath-taking sequences, as the men chase Indy through a circus train. This is a very effective opening: it brings excitement to the movie early on and it allows us to see how Jones already had his trademark mannerisms as a kid.
The story really begins when museum keeper Marcus Brody contacts his old friend Indiana, who’s teaching in a university while waiting for his next adventure. Brody informs him that his father has disappeared while tracking the Holy Grail, the cup that holds the blood of Christ and which men have sought for centuries. So Jones leaves for Venice, where his father was last seen. With the help of a sexy blonde, he discovers that his dad has been captured by the Nazis, who are also looking for the Holy Grail. And that’s just the beginning of this last crusade, which will take Jones and Jones Jr. from Hitler’s Germany to the deserts of the Holy Land.
This highly entertaining feature is once again expertly directed by Steven Spielberg, who crafts fun rides better than anyone else. What’s especially cool about his “Indiana Jones” trilogy is how there’s always one damn thing happening right after the other. The action never stops! Like, Indy discovers catacombs, must swim through rats, then he’s surrounded by walls of fire, but he escapes, only to get in a boat chase and then a fight with a warrior! The whole movie is like that, a relentless stream of mysteries, confrontations and twists. At the center of all this is the wonderful on-screen chemistry shared by Sean Connery and Harrison Ford as the father-and-son team of archaeologists. Ford is as cool as always as Indy, all rugged, macho and witty, and Connery is a refreshing addition, bringing dry humor to his paternal role.
“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is a perfect summer movie. I first saw it at the drive-in as a kid, and I was amazed. Watching it again now for maybe the sixth or seventh time, I tried to be more objective and I must admit that being the third movie, this episode doesn’t feel as fresh as the first one, and it doesn’t reach the frenetic, insane heights of “Temple of Doom”. Still, it grabs you right from the start and never stops entertaining you. Good times!