Raiders of the Lost Ark ★★★★★

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

This review may contain spoilers.

If I were hard-pressed to name a favorite action movie, Raiders Of The Lost Ark would almost certainly be it, although that isn't because I think it has the best, er, action of any film in the genre. Don't get me wrong, the stunts in this are good and all, but I can't really say they're the best I've ever seen or anything. Rather, it's the grand, larger-than-life ADVENTURE of Raiders' action/adventure hybrid that puts it over the top for me; from the opening dissolve from the Paramount Logo into a real-life South American mountain, until its epic, iconic final shot of the Ark being lost in an endless warehouse, Raiders aims to entertain on a massive scale, and even though it should collapse under the weight of its (to be honest) ridiculous premise and scenarios, its sheer audacious nature instead transforms it into an absolute action classic, and just a classic film, period.

It achieves this minor miracle by constantly going big and then some, with shots of massive Nazi flags looming at us, Indiana casting shadows as big as the impact he's made on pop culture everywhere he goes, and the impending wrath of God lurking through sudden gusts of wind, eeriely unnatural thunder storms, and ominous orchestration courtesy of the legendary John Williams. Its pure adventure pulp at its finest, although the film doesn't just excel in its broad strokes, but through smaller ones as well, namely its rich cast of characters.

Of course, Harrison Ford puts in a classic performance as the irresistibly charming, seasoned, but emotionally/physically vunerable Dr. Jones ("Snakes... why'd it have to be snakes?"), but Raiders is also notable for its unusually rich, well-rounded supporting cast, such as John Rhys-Davies's boisterous Egyptian archelogist Sallah, Paul Freeman's arrogant antagonist Belloq, or Ronald Lacey's incessantly quivering, fish-lipped Major Toht, which has to be, to this day, one of the creepiest performances I've ever seen in my life. Finally, Karen Allen makes for the perfect foil for Indy as the fiesty Marion Ravenwood, an old flame who's still stewing over the way he walked out of her life. The two have a great love/hate dynamic growing between them as the film goes on, and Allen adds a lot to the film's already strong sense of personality.

Besides all of that, Raiders' often sudden, shocking use of graphic violence lends it a real sense of danger, and makes you long for the days when the PG rating wasn't almost exclusively for slightly "edgier" animated movies aimed at pre-teens, like the Shreks of the world. And, while one could argue that its depiction of the "exotic" peoples present in its various locales is at best, an afterthought, and at worst, stereotypical, within the unrealistic, exaggerated context of the film, it's not so much offensive as it is there to enhance the overall adventerous, storybook feeling of Ark. The individual bits here all work together in order to serve the outstanding whole, and give Raiders more sheer character and personality than just about any other action movie out there, rendering it one of the grandest, most timeless entertainments out there in the end; don't miss this one for the world.