Film Review: ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’


The man with the whip returns for a limited IMAX run of 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, ahead of the 8 October Blu-ray release of the Indiana Jones quadrilogy. After endless BBC repeats and sour memories of the ridiculous Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull (2008), you mightn’t be keen to part with your hard-earned dollars to watch a movie you’ve seen countless times before. Rest assured, the IMAX experience not only enhances the enjoyment, but also gives audiences an opportunity to view the film on the big screen, just as God (or Steven Spielberg as he is more commonly known) intended.

Firstly, it should be said that the Raiders transfer is not without its issues. The picture quality varies in places and it’s obvious that the film has been stretched for the IMAX screen. If you’re expecting high-def perfection, be aware that there are a few grainy scenes and occasional shot distortion. The sound, on the other hand, is tip-top – loud, booming and crystal skull clear – which increases the excitement during action set pieces and exalts the now-legendary John Williams score.

As for the film itself, Spielberg’s Raiders still stands up as being one of the greatest action adventures to have ever come out of Hollywood. From the opening boulder-rolling chase scene to the face-melting army of Nazis, all the elements are of the highest quality. Harrison Ford’s performance as grinning, charismatic archaeologist Indy is arguably the best work he’s ever done, playing it like an old-school matinee idol (which is essentially what he was) and in turn, creating an icon. Try and imagine anyone else playing the role and you’ll get the measure of just how good a performance he turns out.

The supporting cast to are also all on sparkling form. Karen Allen’s hard drinking tomboy Marion Ravenwood manages to mix it with the men and still retain an alluring femininity, whilst Denholm Elliott and John-Rhys Davies are perfectly cast as the bumbling curator Dr. Marcus Brody and Egyptian excavator Sallah respectively. As for Paul Freeman, as Indy’s arch-nemesis Dr. René Belloq, he’s just about as good as blockbuster movie villains get, and it’s a pity that Freeman wasn’t given the opportunity to play better roles during his time in Hollywood.

Above all else, Raider of the Lost Ark is the definitive Spielberg/Lucas combination, with both monumental directors at the height of their powers. Raiders might often be billed as a family film, but it’s riddled with adult themes and scenes of genuine horror. When compared with the child-friendly Crystal Skull, it’s as though the fourth outing was made by two different filmmakers. No matter – put on your fedoras, saddle up and enjoy one of the great cinematic rollercoaster rides.

Lee Cassanell