Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)


When the Nazis get close to discovering the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant, archaeologist/teacher/adventurer Indiana Jones sets out to beat them to it…

Seen before? Yes, lots. It was one of the key movies of my childhood.

Best performance: I’m going to have to split this award again. I’ve had a man crush on Harrison Ford since I was about five years old; he is masculinity personified, as far as I’m concerned. Droll, sarcastic, laconic, charming, charismatic, strong, equally assured with action and comedy: he’s the greatest movie star of all time. Meanwhile, Karen Allen plays Marion Ravenwood, the kind of fantastic female character – feisty, sassy, smart and tough – that used to be common in genre cinema but seem to have all but vanished. (Seriously, where are the modern equivalents of Princess Leia, Lois Lane, Sarah Connor, Ellen Ripley and the like?)

Best scene/moment/sequence: The chase sequence in Cairo, with goons trying to kidnap Marion, is a riot. It’s playfully shot and scored, and is very, very entertaining. The famous highlight is the moment where a weary and pissed-off Indy comes face-to-face with a menacing swordsman… and just shoots him dead rather than have to fight him.

Review: Outside of maybe Star Wars, it’s difficult to think of a more thrilling, more captivating, more downright enjoyable adventure ride of a film. From its spooky, enigmatic opening to its Biblical ending – via globetrotting locations, action scenes galore, plenty of macabre touches and tons of sharply written dialogue – this is escapist storytelling as good as it gets. The cast are all super – Ford, Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys Davies, Denholm Elliot, Ronald Lacey, all understanding the swashbuckling tone perfectly. The music is out of this world. And the direction is breathtaking. Even though I know Raiders so well, each time I see it I’m bowled over by how inventive, interesting and witty many of the shots are and how pacey the film is. The whole thing has peerless panache.

Ten melting faces out of 10.

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