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INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

SYNOPSIS:
Archeology professor Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones (Harrison Ford) is thrust back into action in 1957 when a young man who calls himself Mutt (Shia LaBoeuf) turns up with a letter from a woman in Indy's past (Karen Allen), together with notes in a dead language from Indy's old colleague, Professor Oxley (John Hurt), which trigger a search for mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls. But Indy and Mutt soon become entangled in a Soviet plot engineered by psychic researcher Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) to find and use the secret power of the Skulls, and even old colleague Mac (Ray Winstone) isn't much help.

Review by Louise Keller:
Recapturing the joyous spirit of the original adventures, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull allows an invigorated Harrison Ford to re-don his dusty hat and adventure his way through a string of sticky situations, while retaining his sense of humour, wit and think-on-his-feet physicality. Ford is in great shape and well countered by chameleon Cate Blanchett, whose steely Soviet agent Irina Spalko craves knowledge as capitalists crave gold. David Koepp's screenplay contains just the right balance of character and action, while Steven Spielberg is totally in his element, directing with all the polish we have come to expect but with the added injection of boyish enthusiasm.

The time frame is firmly positioned to 1957 when the Cold War plays out its chill, Elvis' Hound Dog plays on the radio, and Shia LaBeouf's young rebel Mutt with his leather jacket, comb and flick knife looks as though he has ridden his motor bike directly from the set of The Wild One. The film's pitch starts high in an impressive set piece on a remote nuclear testing site in Nevada where a plastic population emulates middle America before the boom. First we see the hat flung on the desert sand. Then John Williams' rousing four note theme teases us before the camera rests on Indy himself, with designer stubble and wry crooked smile. 'You're not from around here,' he says, pointing out the obvious to Blanchett's immaculately groomed Irina with the piercing blue eyes. From the blast of a nuclear explosion to the academic classroom we travel to a mythological Amazonian city where Indy aspires to solve the riddle surrounding the mystical powers of the Crystal Skull of Akator.

The stunts are big, bold and stunning. There's a motor cycle chase, a sword fight on the top of two fast-moving jeeps in the jungle, a giant snake and rescue from a quagmire, cascading down three giant waterfalls, swinging on Tarzan vines, man-eating giant ants, hazardous precipices and more. But beyond the action is the film's heart which comes in the form of its inimitable hero and surrounding characters. Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood reappears from (Raiders of the Lost Arc) as Mutt's free-spirited Mom, Ray Winstone as Mac whose greed makes him unable to decide on which side he is, and John Hurt's Professor Oxley, who spends most of the time uttering indecipherable murmurings, having been brainwashed by the powers above. It's wall to wall spectacular action in spectacular settings as Williams' magnificent music theme helps sweep us away, which, like the franchise itself, shows how ably it has lasted through the test of time. Appealing to young and old, Indiana Jones is back - and it was worth the wait!

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Filled with many hairy escapes - and a few miraculous ones - Indiana Jones' fourth adventure is as rip roaring as we would expect, dotted with little jokey bits and a dash of Close Encounters of the Third Kind kind of thing. The adventure takes us across jungles and through giant waterfalls, down dungeons and up vine-laced trees, fighting the pesky Soviets (in Cold War mode) with lots of blazing guns, plus poison-dart armed indigenous warriors hidden inside tombs, giant ants that swarm and gobble up everything in their path ... and treachery.

Early on while held captive by half the Red Army, Indy reminds fellow captive Mac (Ray Winstone) that getting out of scrapes like this one isn't as easy at it used to be. He even admits to getting older. So there, he says it for us and gets it out of the way. But he puts up a good fight for an older bloke, as young Mutt (Shia LaBoeuf) notes a couple of times. And speaking of the Soviets, Cate Blanchett gets a radical new look with short raven black hair in a modish straight bob, as Irina, the slightly weird Russian paranormal researcher who is adamant that the Crystal Skulls will enable her to control the thoughts of Russia's enemies. Cate acquits herself well as a Rusky, creating a persona beyond the stereotype and making us believe that she believes in all the mumbo jumbo. This is the weakest part of the film, a plot relying on beings from another dimension - not from space, but from the space between spaces, as John Hurt valiantly explains to us at one point.

Massive and extravagant digital effects drive much of the scarier parts of the adventure, such as the boatload of Indy, Oxy, Mutt and his mum falling down not one but three giant waterfalls. (Miraculous escape No 4.)

There is a subplot romance that reunites Indiana with old flame Marion, peppered with recriminations and bickering that injects some everyday humour to a few action scenes. It also serves to balance the film's full throttle adventure with some human dimension.

Shia is likeable as the young man swept into the adventure, making his entrance as if heading for a Wild One (1953) theme party. This is 1957, remember. His character carries a lot of weight in the story, but ultimately it's all down to the old man to drive the action. The first two Indiana Jones films are still the best, but Spielberg meets most of our expectations.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (M)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBoeuf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent

PRODUCER: Frank Marshall

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

SCRIPT: David Koepp (story by George Lucas, Jeff Nathanson)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Janusz Kaminski

EDITOR: Michael Kahn

MUSIC: John Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Guy Dyas

RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures Australia

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 22, 2008







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