Fave Films: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark stands the test of time almost 30 years after its release as a immensely enjoyable adventure romp and a definitive moment for the genre. The film that introduced the world to one of the greatest movie heroes of all time in Indiana Jones, it goes back to a time when creativity and choreography were essential to pulling off the film’s many stunts and action scenes.
Harrison Ford brings so many iconic traits to the character of Indy, and he is allowed to do so by the subtleties of the film. He is sly, cool, ingenious, but most of all, human. Boring professor by day, ultimate swash buckling action hero by weekend, this isn’t a superhero or a man with gadgets to keep him ahead of the bad guys. In fact, Indiana gets the worst of it in more than one instance in Raiders. This allows the viewer to connect and root for him, especially in amusing scenes such as when he literally brings a gun to a sword fight.
Steven Spielberg shows off his ability to tell a great story, and packs the film with great symbolism via visual cues. The use of shadows in his shots in particular are very effective, and the different sets remain convincing. The story itself works so well because although it features a few moments of cheese, basing it on actual historical artifacts makes it very easy to enjoy and also gives Indy many exciting locales to visit.
Using the Nazis as the villains was brilliant and gives the audience a clear “good vs evil” storyline, allowing the film to focus on the development of the leads without sacrificing investment in the plot. The action pieces work and create a real sense of tension and danger because it’s actually a person performing the stunt. From the awesome truck chase (Wilhelm scream alert!) to the well of snakes to the awesomely ambiguous ending, Raiders is full of memorable moments that have understandably permeated pop-culture to this day. And not to mention the immense lot of popular films that are directly in debt to Raiders for making the classic adventure popular again.
Outside of Harrison Ford’s epic performance, the supporting cast has a ball, with one of the creepiest sociopath villains of all time and a great band of friends for Indy. Karen Allen does struggle to be convincing at times, but she works well in the romantic sections of the film, especially the “where does it hurt” scene, equally amusing and endearing. This is a film that hits on all cylinders and set the stage for two more underrated tales to come (let’s not talk about the new Indiana Jones film for the purposes of keeping this review positive).
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great introduction to one of the best movie heroes of all time and remains a treat to experience. This is essential viewing.