Action/ adventure was given a new lease of life in Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark ; a rollicking, entertaining tribute to old adventure serials with a classic turn by Harrison Ford and all the right ingredients for an energetic blockbuster. Raiders of the Lost Ark is truly one of those iconic films that never gets boring no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Trust me, this movie is simply irresistible.
The year is 1936 and rugged Indiana Jones(Harrison Ford), often refereed to as Dr. Jones or Indy, is an archaeologist/adventurer with a dry sense of humour, skill with a whip, fear of snakes and ability to think quickly on his feet. He works as a college professor when he’s not facing immense danger around the globe. We first meet him in the jungles of South America where he procures an artefact, faces down danger and meets his slimy rival René Belloq( Paul Freeman), who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Back at the university he teaches at, his friend Marcus Brody(Denholm Elliott) a museum creator approaches Jones with two American agents. As Indy has knowledge of ancient relics and cultures the U.S government wants his help in dealing with the growing power of the Nazis. It’s come to their attention that the Nazis are fixed on discovering the burial place of The Ark of Covenant; an ancient and innumerable chest that according to the Bible held the two stone tablets bearing The Ten Commandments. Also housed in it is immeasurable power that the Nazis wish to harness to further advance their cause. Jones worked with Abner Ravenwood, his old mentor and had a relationship with his daughter Marion(Karen Allen). Travelling to Nepal, he meets the tough talking Marion once more and learns her father is dead. She is now in possession of a headpiece that when used properly shows the whereabouts of the Ark. She isn’t too pleased to see Indy as he romanced her and then disappeared, which leaves him with a hell of a punch across the face on their reconnection. The fact that Marion has the key to discovering the Ark puts her in the firing line for trouble. This in turns leads the Nazis to her door, headed by the very creepy and sadistic Gestapo agent Arnold Toht(Ronald Lacey). Escaping and discovering the Nazi’s, along with Belloq are digging in Cairo, Indiana and Marion head there intent on stopping them. With aid from loyal digger Sallah( John Rhys-Davies), it’s up to Indy and Marion to stop the Ark falling into Nazi hands and being wielded as a devastating weapon on the world.
Steven Spielberg directs this action adventure classic with panache, wit and a rip-roaring sense of entertainment and it ranks as one of his best films. You can clearly see the love and feeling of breathless action he infused Raiders with to make it so rightfully iconic. His infectious enthusiasm to recreate 30’s adventure serials transfers to the audience who are swept along with Indiana Jones in his quest to retrieve the eponymous artefact from the clutches of evil. Raiders of the Lost Ark bristles with excitement right from the celebrated opening and continues on with breathless action that also houses great characters and many instances that have become synonymous with pop culture. You’ve got that opening with Indy retrieving a golden idol from a cave that’s laced with booby traps( including one menacing boulder), a journey into the resting place of the Ark which is littered with snakes, Indy hilariously shooting a show off swordsman in a nonchalant manner, a scintillating truck chase sequence that puts the A in action and the unveiling of the Ark itself. It’s hard to just talk about one moment but I’ll do my best. The cinematography has a warm glow of yesteryear and just adds further to this exciting and escapist adventure that never leaves you. The visual effects still hold up and make the finale a sight to behold in both wonderment and shock. And one of the finest and most fondly remembered parts of this movie has to be the score from the maestro that is John Williams. I’ve long been a fan of his work and his score here is one of the reasons why. I mean you only need to hear a few notes of the now famous theme to feel chills on your neck and know you’re listening to greatness that embodies adventure, danger and just that giddy feeling of something magic at work.
Essaying the role of Indiana Jones is the incomparable Harrison Ford. He’s got the humour down, the intrepid feeling of adventure, plus charm and smarts to burn. Ford is compelling and it’s pretty damn impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part because he makes it his own with star quality, wit and a certain level of old school, heroic cool. It’s hard not to warm to Indiana Jones with Harrison Ford in such fine form and creating one of the most recognisable heroes of the silver screen. Aiding him is the beautiful but strong presence of Karen Allen. She portrays Marion as feisty and not afraid to rough and tumble; thankfully she has more to do that just a be a love interest. Not that her chemistry with Ford isn’t impressive( it’s extremely good), but it’s great to see that she serves a purpose here and can take charge when needed. A slimy turn from Paul Freeman makes Belloq a cultured yet rotten to the core adversary for Indy, while is creepiness personified as the Nazi agent with the most unnerving demeanour. Humour and a certain lovable nature comes courtesy of John Rhys-Davies, making the most out of his supporting role as loyal friend. The refined Denholm Elliott also stands out in a small role with his well spoken air and sense of a gentleman. Watch out for a young Alfred Molina in the opening scene as a treacherous tour guide who meets a grisly end after showing his true, deceitful colours.
With compelling action, imagination, fine acting and a masterful director at the helm, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most rip-roaring pieces of adventure entertainment you’re likely to see and trust me, you’ll never tire of it.