“Raiders Of The Lost Ark” remains one of the greatest films of all time. There’s nothing not to like about it and the accolades go to Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Lawrence Kasdan and John Williams, along with a sensational cast of still unknown actors that owned their roles with absolute authenticity.
Ford became a great action film star due to Indiana Jones and Han Solo. This film is an example of his best work. He’s the best at facial expression during high action moments. Watch the truck chase during the second half of the film. As he is careening a truck through the sand streets of Cairo, he winces in pain, evokes anger and dons a toothy grin as he shakes Nazis off the vehicle and throws them through windshields.
He’s got the perfect delivery of lines as he love/hate banters with Karen Allen as tough broad Marion Ravenwood (Jones’ best gal pal of the series). Their chemistry is great because they are two loudmouths who work off insulting and shouting at one another. They are one of my favorite on screen couples; like two Oscar Madisons who belong together.
Recently Ford said no one else can play the role; the role dies with him. He couldn’t be more right. Indiana Jones is not an interchangeable part like James Bond or Batman. Those roles change with the times and technology. Jones remains in history with a trusty whip, a sign of the times fedora hat and a drive to uncover the great unknown. None of these films work unless Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones.
John Williams also needs recognition. Who isn’t familiar with the famous build up horns calling for adventure? His composition just puts a smile on your face. Dialogue isn’t at play much during one of Spielberg’s well orchestrated action scenes. So we rely on the march of Williams’ efforts to relish in the fun of a foot chase through a Cairo marketplace or to thrill at a fast rolling boulder chasing the famed archeologist after he snatches his prized booty.
Spielberg and Lucas always get praise for their brilliant imagination. I venture to guess how many people were aware of the occupation of archeologist before this release in 1981. Sure, this isn’t what the job realistically entails but the film opens your mind to what is out there and what we can learn more about our past.
A great moment in cinematic exposition is when Jones explains the power of the famed biblical Ark of the Covenant. The dialogue works great here, thanks to a winning script from the great Lawrence Kasdan, and it has the audacity to convince an audience that some Maguffin we read about in Sunday school could actually make Hitler’s Nazi regime invincible. Seriously? What?!?!? When you blend Spielberg and Lucas’ bravado, Williams’ eerily quiet thinking music, and Ford’s professor obsessed role with Kasdan’s efficiency for description all in one scene…yeah…you believe this could be a very real threat.
Every scene is different. Snakes, truck chases, spiders, foot chases, bottomless pits, bar shootouts, the power of God, and a wide variety of antagonists all used to build the structure of two of the best hours in a film and brilliantly weaves together with transitioning red lines across a traveling map. This is great editing, people.
Nothing has ever come close to “Raiders Of The Lost Ark.” Nothing ever will. It is a perfect film.