Before it opened, there was much public mulling over whether Harrison Ford had the stamina at age 65 to play Indiana Jones one more time. Apparently the box office grosses answered that question. It was an irrelevant question, anyway. In those Indiana Jones movies, the machinery is what mattered. Ford was there for the ride, just like the audience. I think what was missing in ...Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the elegiac qualities of a late period performance ... for example, the aging heroism in John Wayne's last great movie.
True Grit isn't just the sword outwearing the sheath, and the soul outwearing the breast, as Byron put it. It's also about remaining power in an old carcass. Wayne's rallying of that power in the film's memorable duel: blinking his one good eye at the shock of being called a fat old man, he takes his horse's reins in his teeth and rides down four gunmen. The film is often a comedy, with lines worthy of Mark Twain in it; so much so that the emotional content blindsides you. Every film class in the world quite justly talks about the end of The Searchers, John Ford's image of Wayne framed by a doorway, never at home or really at ease. True Grit has a scene to equal it: a gentle if tersely written scene at a snow-covered grave yard in the high country, with approximately the emotional fire power of the finale of James Joyce's The Dead.