Salty Air

‘Past Lives’ sublime; new Indy so-so – Play It Again, Tim

Indiana Jones
Written by Tim Miller

So much of life is determined by chance, by change, by choice.

You have a childhood sweetheart, but, odds are, you don’t end up with that person. Your family moves away. Or maybe one or both of you change and your connection is lost. Or, you make life choices that steer you away from each other.

But maybe something remains. A wistfulness. A sense of loss. Heartache.

Writer-director Celine Song’s poignant “Past Lives” (PG-13, 105 minutes, in theaters) deals with such a situation, beautifully capturing an enduring love affected by bad timing.

Past LivesNa Young and Hae Sung are childhood friends in South Korea – friends with unspoken crushes on each other. Na Young’s family then moves to Canada – the girl changing her name to Nora in the process.

The film jumps 12 years ahead, then 12 more, showing how Nora (played as an adult by Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (played as an adult by Teo Yoo) reconnect, but always with obstacles. One obstacle is distance. Another involves career pursuits. Yet another is Arthur (John Magaro), a man in Nora’s life who winds up having to navigate his own complex, deeply felt emotions.

Nothing seems contrived here. The characters, their feelings, their choices all ring true. “Past Lives” shows life and people as deep and complicated – much more deep and complicated than lesser films would have us believe.

Lee (Netflix’s “Russian Doll”) and Yoo (“Decision to Leave”) are perfect, giving understated, moving performances. And Magaro (“First Cow”) is strong in support.

This is a movie to savor, to see more than once. You don’t watch it so much as experience it. You feel it. And it can hurt.

But it’s worth the pain. There’s something transcendent about this story, which captures the bigness of human existence in a way that leaves you in awe, and maybe helps you understand love and loss and life a little better. **** (out of four)

And then we have a summer blockbuster …

Movies like “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (PG-13, 154 minutes, in theaters) are the reason movies like “Past Lives” are such rare treasures.

Maybe that’s an unfair comparison. You know, apples and oranges.

But “Dial of Destiny” suffers from the same ills of so many high-octane action flicks. Their makers – in the case of this film, director James Mangold (“Walk the Line,” “Wolverine,” “Logan”) and a trio of screenwriters – make the mistake of thinking movement is inherently interesting.

This ”Indy” movie – the fifth in a Steven Spielberg-George Lucas franchise that started with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1981 – is jam-packed with over-the-top action: crazy chase sequences through the streets of 1969 New York (with the hero on a galloping horse) and Rome, a fight on the roof of a train (coincidentally, very similar to the one in the upcoming new “Mission: Impossible” film, along with so many other movies), one breathtaking peril after another.

Indiana Jones

Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge appear in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” (Disney)

Most have long become cliches, and no matter how many razzle-dazzle special effects are thrown in to amp up the proceedings, THEY ARE BORING.

(OK, sorry for the rant, which I could cut and paste onto so many reviews of, say, the “Fast and Furious” movies or other cinematic paint-by-numbers products.)

Here’s what you probably already know: Harrison Ford, soon to be 81 (!), is back as Fedora-wearing, whip-snapping Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones Jr., an archeology professor/adventurer, who, in the past, has battled Nazis and others while in search of ancient relics.

Now a geezer retiring from his longtime college post, Indy sets off on another search, this time with his adult goddaughter (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), to retrieve a legendary artifact that – surprise! – will result in dire circumstances for the world at large if it falls into the wrong hands. You know, the Dial of Destiny!

Standing in his way is physicist Dr. Jurgen Voller (reliable villain Mads Mikkelsen), a former Nazi – Former? Really? – who’s gained some renown by helping America land astronauts on the moon.

Indy fans will probably delight in the return of some familiar characters, and if this film is the end of the franchise, Mangold and company do a nice job of wrapping things up. In fact, the genuinely entertaining beginning (featuring younger Indy fighting Nazis) and heartfelt final sequence are excellent. It’s what falls between these bookends that grows tiresome. **½

** Click here for  Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **

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Tim Miller

Tim Miller, Movie Critic

Tim Miller is co-president of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.

About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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