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7. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Raiders of the Lost Ark

November 22, 2018

Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott
Runtime: 115 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1981

 

★★★★★

 

Very much a companion piece to Star Wars, this is another attempt by Lucas and Spielberg to recapture the same nostalgia of the film serials of their youth. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the culmination of their labours, and it’s one of the greatest and most enjoyable adventure films ever made.

 

Harrison Ford plays the lead with such confidence and rugged swagger that you’d forget that you’re watching Han Solo. The iconic hat and coat are perfect staples of fevered fantasy, and is a figure who can take a punch and teach a class both at the same time.

 

His journey to find the Ark of the Covenant is woven into a 1930’s environment with the rustic and sun-swept aesthetic planted nicely as the staging for some spectacular set-pieces of physical labour and endurance.

 

There’s also a terrific comfort in having the Nazis as the villain. They’re incredibly unambiguous in their nature with a firm context for their actions; they’re Nazis.

 

Marion Ravenwood is the love interest beyond the typical damsel in distress tropes of here iconography, played by Karen Allen with great vitality. Beyond the fairly basic structure of the story, and the fact that Indy’s actions may not seem as important in the long run, the film rejoices in its own sense of fun accomplishment.

 

The action scenes are painstakingly well choreographed and engaging, with many surprises along the way and a high energy to its editing pace, backed up with an enormous John Williams score.

 

The films hard edge is one of its most memorable features. It doesn’t shy away from brutal force and consequence, with some bloody moments and an unbelievably fiery climax.

 

It’s not hard to see why it’s a longstanding favourite of many, with elements that blend soundly, confidently and directed with impeccable control.

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