In 1944, as the Allies were bringing World War II to a close, Indiana Jones (a de-aged Harrison Ford) is captured by the Nazis attempting to retrieve the Lance of Longinus. Jurgen Voller (a de-aged Mads Mikkelsen) reports that he has found the Archimedes Dial, invented by Archimedes and said to be able to locate fissures in time. Jones escapes his captors and boards a train full of looted antiquities. He determines that the Lance is a fake, but gets his hands on the Dial of Destiny just before escaping the train as it crosses a bridge destroyed by Allied bombers and derails spectacularly. He joins up with his colleague Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), an archaeologist from Oxford.
In August, 1969, Jones has separated from his wife Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) after the death of their son Mutt during the Vietnam War, and the university is pressuring him to retire. In a bar, he meets archaeology student Helena “Wombat” Shaw (Phoebe Walter-Bridge), Basil’s daughter and Indiana’s godchild. Jones tells her that the Dial was split in pieces and her late father nearly went mad trying to decipher its meaning. They get the first piece of the dial from a university storeroom but are attacked by Voller, who now works for NASA and is assisted by CIA agent Mason (Shaunette Renèe Wilson). Jones escapes in a parade celebrating Apollo 11 astronauts and ducks into the NYC Subway to join his old friend Sallah (John-Rhys-Davies), now a cabdriver.
Jones travels to Tangier and stops Helena from selling the first part of the Dial at auction. Voller and his men arrive, forcing Jones, Helena, and her friend Terry Kumar (Ethan Isidre) to flee in a rickshaw. Voller grabs the first part of the Dial and is captured by Mason, but she is killed and they steal her helicopter. Jones, Helena, and Teddy trail Voller to Greece, where they get Jones’s friend Renaldo (Antonio Banderas), a deep-sea diver, to retrieve the next part of the dial. They get it, but Voller kills Renaldo and follows the others to Sicily, where they find the third piece in Archimedes’ grave. Voller captures Jones, assembles the dial and reveals that he plans to travel back to 1939 and kill Adolf Hitler, hoping that a better leader would arise and lead Germany to victory. Helena sneaks aboard Voller’s plane and Terry pursues them in another plane.
But Voller fails to consider continental drift (!) and the Fissure in Time leads them to 212 BC, during the Siege of Syracuse. Jones and Helena parachute from the plane as it is shot down, killing Voller and his men. Injured, Jones begs Helena to leave him in the past, but Helena refuses. They speak with Archimedes. Helena knocks Jones out and brings him back to 1969. He awakens in his apartment with Helena, Teddy, Sallah, his grandchildren, and Marion.
The film was directed by James Mangold and written by him, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and David Koepp. It was produced by Disney and Lucasfilm, but neither Lucas nor Steven Spielberg were involved except as Executive Producers. It shows. Since 1970, the plan was to do five Indiana Jones films but it took this long to do so. Gradually, Lucas and Spielberg passed on it. At least John Williams is back, for his last film score. Harrison Ford got into shape with 40-mile bike rides every day.
There are lots of things to enjoy in this movie. First, Harrison Ford as Indie, looking like nine miles of bad road but as comfortable for audiences as old slippers, except that the de-aging, as well-done as it was, sometimes didn’t work. Mads Mikkelsen is a great villain. You might think he’s played lots of Nazis, but this is the first time. It’s great to see and hear Sallah again, though his face reminds you how long it’s been. There is plenty in the way of rollicking street chases, creepy crypts and caves, insects coming out of the walls. There are some decent young actors bouncing off Harrison Ford’s world-weary, laconic style. But during the battles and chases, you can’t help but remember how much more arresting and exciting they seemed with Steven Spielberg behind the camera. And you can’t help but wish the creaking old Hollywood movie machine had gotten its act together before Lucas and Spielberg gave up on the sequels.
The third act is what usually does in movies, and this one jumped the shark in a TARDIS. When I heard there was a time-machine in it, I thought they were joking, and I love time machines. Of course, the weird and the supernatural is a big part of the Indiana Jones formula--Who can forget the Ark of the Covenant?—and this is no exception. The aliens in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull were a bit over the top, but Indiana Jones is not Doctor Who and this may be too much fantasy to take. But if you can swallow the time-travel, relax and enjoy the ride—it’s basically a two-hour artifact chase, with a train-wreck, and pretty damned exciting at that.