Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"Indiana, we are simply passing through history.
This...
This is history."

I always hesitate when faced with writing about a movie that I consider perfect. After all, there's only so many times you can adequately convey the brilliance of something before you start to sound repetitive. This is a bit of a problem, because I think Raiders of the Lost Ark is (to borrow an expression from Mary Poppins) practically perfect in every way, and now I have to try and explain why.

There are many ways to review Raiders: I could go on a rambling discourse about the awesomeness of the cast (Harrison Ford has never been better, Karen Allen is simply scintillating, Paul Freeman and Ronald Lacey are kings of cinematic villainy, etc.), highlight the accomplishments of the crew (Douglas Slocombe's cinematography; Ben Burtt's sound design; Norman Reynolds' production design; the work of the entire stunt team), or just list a bunch of brilliant things that happen to feature in the film (The massive boulder! The Nazi monkey! The background hieroglyphs of R2-D2 and C-3PO! The gag with the mirror!).

Instead of doing that, I'd like to talk about the actual experience of watching Raiders, and how it makes me feel. Like most of you, I want movies to provide me with an engaging, exhilarating, and emotional experience, and Raiders does that in spades. The opening sequence amps me up like crazy, forcing me instantly to forget any misgivings I might have of re-watching it for what must be the thirtieth time. Ditto with virtually every beat of action, from the bar fight in The Raven to the fist fight on the Flying Wing. The map room scene fills me with awe and wonderment, as John Williams rouses his orchestra and a beam of sunlight hits the model of Tanis. Likewise when Indy and Sallah uncover the Ark from its resting place, and during the opening of the Ark at the climax. As for the truck sequence... if that isn't the single greatest chase scene ever put to film, vehicular or otherwise, I don't know what is. Oh, and the ending is perfect as well, sending the viewer off with a smile on their face and that theme tune in their ears.

Raiders of the Lost Ark isn't just my favourite Steven Spielberg film, it's one of my favourite films in general. It's a faultlessly crafted, effortlessly entertaining, and endlessly re-watchable piece of cinema that seems purpose-built to remind me why I fell in love with movies in the first place. So thank you, Messrs Spielberg, Lucas, & Ford: without you, God knows what I'd be writing about.


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