Sean Connery did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, for portraying Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Sean Connery's casting as Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford)'s father seems just about perfect, after all who should raise one iconic action hero other than James Bond perhaps the most iconic of them all. This seems played into by the film where we only get a glimpse of Henry in the film's opening flashback. In the scene we do not see Connery, only hear his voice who quietly commands young Indiana to wait for his attention. After this point we keep hearing many things about Henry, and knowing it is Connery, there is a considerable build up for his appearance which does not come until over forty minutes in. When he finally does appear though, which involves Indiana infiltrating a German castle, we don't quite get what we should have expected. Connery is known best for playing his calm and quite commanding characters like James Bond. Even when Connery grew older he still continued to play these sort of roles, after all his Oscar winning role only two years earlier was a street smart cop there to toughen up that film's hero, his first physical appearance though proves that this will not be the case in this film.
Well Sean Connery actually plays against type here, but like James Caan in Misery it's the sort of playing against type an actor rarely gets credit for. Connery usually plays a man ripe and ready to handle any situation he sees, well that's just not Henry Jones. The film does seem to purposefully set this up as Indiana is dramatically hit by a vase after he comes into his father's prison room. Although as the camera finally shows Connery it seems kind of serious. Well that's all broken once Henry's expression changes and Connery reveals the sort of man Henry is as he looks on with joyous surprise that it is indeed "you Junior", before casually lamenting the broken vase before being relieved that it is nothing but a fake. Henry is not necessarily a meek man, but he's certainly a far cry from his son. Connery, even though he's playing actually very different sort than he so often plays, fits the role like a glove. After the revelation Connery simply is Henry and he could not be more comfortable in the role. He perfectly creates the sort of more retiring manner fit for a man who has spent much of his life examining old books and artifacts in a quest to find a single item.
Connery does more than convince us in this first scene that he's more than suited in the role, but he also gives us the idea of just how entertaining he is going to be in it as well. This becomes particularly evident in his absolutely hilarious reactions in just a few minutes of the screen time. One being when Indiana reveals he brought Henry's important diary right into a Nazi lair, as Connery is great in portraying such exasperation towards his son, then I think this perhaps only topped by his quite comical disbelief after his son has gunned down a group of Nazis who were holding them at gunpoint. It is interesting Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is one of the best sequels of all time, even though it could have easily seemed repetitive of the first one given the similair plot, but it never does. Something that I think helps a considerable amount in this regard is Connery's presence which does bring something brand new to the proceedings. That being that he is with Harrison Ford's Indiana through just about every scene of the second half of the film which offers quite a different dynamic by having these two as a duo together.
Connery is marvelous in every scene as probably one of the funniest comic reliefs in an action film ever, but it's really quite intriguing since Ford himself is also quite funny already in the role. Connery only seems to amplify any thing that Ford does, I especially love the dumb smile both of them give when they accidentally find a secret passage and come face to face with a female Nazi. Connery does distinguish himself well from Ford in the action scenes by basically presenting a novice in the arena of chases and fights. Connery's reaction are always just priceless as Henry is so surprised by so many people trying to kill him, because he states himself it is a new experience for him. There is a certain excitement about all that Connery also exudes that makes every scene all the more fun. Of course it does not even need to be an action scene for Connery's comedic timing to be flawless here. One of the most enjoyable moments has to be his scoff when he figures out the beautiful Nazi is talking to his son, and not him. This really is one of those supporting performances that just seems to go the extra distance since there is never a moment where Connery does not add something.
You know I could go on and on listing every little moment of his performance from his face after accidentally shooting their own plane, to his jubilation at discovering another secret passage just by sitting down, but there's just so many. This performance goes above and beyond all that since he also does create a more in depth relationship between Henry and his son than you might expect given the style of the film. Connery brilliant inserts just these short moments where Henry reveals the stern father, particularly in judgment of Indiana enjoying some of the action a little too much. I must admit Connery somehow works this also into some very humorous deadpan moments. Connery extends it further than that in his type of chemistry with Ford. There is not an excessive connection between the two though there seems to be an understanding of sorts. Connery brings just the right sort of warmth though with a certain distance about it as though he expects Indiana to be knowledgeable enough to know that he cares for him without directly saying it. There short dinner scene is particularly good because in an instance Connery realizes Henry's parenting method, which is not exactly cold, but leaves his son to perhaps do a little too much of his own thinking.
Now given that this is such a funny performance you'd might think it would be only capable of that, but that once again is not the case. The moments where they discuss the quest to find the grail and Connery reveals that considerable passion in Henry fitting for a man who has obsessed for it for his whole life. Connery though is outstanding in the moment where Henry explains the severity of the situation, and Connery brings such dramatic weight to the importance of finding the grail. This conviction in his speech is wonderfully handled, and in his eyes you see what the grail means to Henry. Even the relationship with Indiana, which certainly has a lot of laughs, is not only played for that though. The moment where he reprimands Indiana for blasphemy Connery shows the difference between the two and even a certain disappointment in Indiana's cynicism. Also when in a moment where it seems Indiana has died Connery is heartbreaking as he reveals so well just how much he loves his son. He earns the moment and makes the one a few moments later when he embraces his son who has survived truly poignant. Connery's portrayal of Henry adds so much to the film as he either makes a great scene all the more entertaining, or enliven a dramatic moment all the more. I don't mind saying it. I love this performance it simply is one those perfect examples of what makes a great supporting performance.