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Vault: 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' (1981) Dir. Steven Spielberg

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Wolf Kahler and Alfred Molina


The creative minds of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas join forces to introduce a new action / adventure hero...

Renowned university teacher and archaeologist Indiana Jones (Ford) is hired by US Army Intelligence to find and locate the fabled Ark of the Covenant; something the Nazis are searching for to empower his army.

Traveling to Nepal, Indiana reunites with old flame Marion Ravenwood (Allen), daughter of his old mentor The two are soon facing danger as they travel to Cairo with Nazi agents on their heels seeking the Well of Souls, last known resting place of the Ark.

Indy races against time to find the Ark before rival archaeologist Belloq (Freeman) does, who is working with the Nazis. Indy uses everything at his disposal to prevent the Nazis from finding and opening the Ark, releasing the dangerous supernatural power within…

Inspired by the classic 1930s/40s B-movie adventure serials populating TVs and cinema screens, this is a fitting tribute to that era but also a stand-alone period adventure film which features real stunt work, a clear cut good v evil story and good-old fashioned adventure crossing exotic and dangerous locations. 

A film that is suitable for the family, albeit with a few scary moments, this is a perfect example of real film-making at its best that caters for all sexes, all ages and all generations – the handsome and roguish leading man, the thrills and excitement in the action sequences and a stellar cast of characters set in a period of time everyone understands. It literally is nothing but a well-crafted, passionately made tribute to the era when action heroes really were action heroes doing extraordinary things in a real and dangerous world, but they made it look so good and so cool.

With a brilliant cast and crew who know their target audience, all aspects of this film work for just the right reasons and all for the right outcomes.

From the authentic costumes, the props, the immersive set design and real-life locations all benefit in making this an authentic adventure film that depends on the actors and the visual cinematography, not CGI as in modern films today. Each stunt you see is exciting, bone-crunching and full of desire to thrill the audience. Counting only a handful of visual effects to create things not natural to this world, or something pretty much fatal to a character you couldn’t do in real-life, everything here is real. 

Everything plays a part in making this era come alive, from the colours to the lighting and use of shadows to represent danger, light v dark and the sense of eerie foreboding in the tale. The story itself is very simple; good v evil in a race against time to locate a relic of unimaginable power, blending fantasy with adventure to make this something that you question could something like the Ark truly exist? 

Thanks to an iconic performance by Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, he is the 1930s superhero we all need; by day he is mild-mannered university professor and by night, after hours, he is the tough and resourceful hero. He looks good, conveys so much with his physical features over just dialogue to create a character all men want to be, and all women want to be with. He’s clever, brave, dangerous and heroic. Because of this, everyone else just falls in around him to give him the love interest, the rivalry and the friendships he needs. 

Karen Allen is feisty and a tough female-lead in a male dominated era. Paul Freeman is a slippery and cunning villain. John Rhys-Davies is the likeable friend who puts himself in danger first. Ronald Lacey is the eerie, imposing Nazi agent. It’s text-book characterisation, with no blurred lines of who is good or bad; it’s simple, as it should be, and everything from their musical motifs to their dialogue and costumes reflect their character perfectly. We cheer for the heroes, and we hiss at the villains like all good films should let you.

Coupled with a truly iconic score by composer John Williams that never fails to send goosebumps down my arm, this is what you get when film-making is at its best to deliver sheer cinematic entertainment and escapism the old-fashioned way, making everything so much more enjoyable and easier to believe in seeing it happen before your very eyes. Just perfect, on so many levels.

A homage to the B-movies and Saturday morning adventure serials a generation grew up with; brought to life for a timeless adventure for all generations going forward.

'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' is a LucasFilm Ltd. production

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