I shared this theory with a few friends recently, and I’m confident enough in it now to post it on the blog: The U2 song “One” is entirely describing the last act of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” For those of you who haven’t seen the last few minutes of that epic, the only link I could find was with Spanish subtitles; for our purposes, I think it still works.
A quick primer: “Last Crusade” tells the story of Indy and his father looking for the Holy Grail, ultimately leading them to the Grail’s temple, guarded by an ageless knight. Indy is hesitant to search for the grail, until his father is shot. Knowing that water from the grail is the only thing that will save his father’s life, his quest for the grail continues. And Bono’s songwriting duties began…
“Is it getting better, or do you feel the same? Will it make it easier on you now, you’ve got someone to blame?” As Indiana thinks about his strained relationship with his father, Bono continues: “Did I disappoint you? Or leave a bad taste in your mouth? You act like you never had love, and you want me to go without. Well it’s too late tonight to drag the past out into the light. We’re one, but we’re not the same, we get to carry each other, carry each other, one.”
Just in case Bono thought we forgot why Indiana was trudging through the temple, he continues: “Have you come here for forgiveness [after Indy and his father said hurtful things to each other]? Have you come to raise the dead [after Indy’s father has been fatally wounded]? Have you come here to play Jesus [he’s searching for the holy grail!]? To the lepers in your head?”
Bono goes back to the strained Indiana/Sean Connery relationship: “Did I ask too much? More than a lot. You gave me nothing, now it’s all I got. We’re one, but we’re not the same, well we hurt each other then we do it again.”
Now here’s where it gets eerie: Bono starts accurately describing the exact trials and tribulations Indy has to go through to reach the grail. Consider: Bono sings that “Love is a temple, love a higher law” – that’s when Indy goes into the temple main entrance. “You ask me to enter, but then you made me crawl” – just like how Indy has to duck those swinging knives and crawl into the temple. “And I can’t be holding on” – Indy has to spell out the name “Jehovah,” but forgets that “in the Latin alphabet, Jehovah begins with an ‘i’!” Therefore, he almost plunges to his death – he couldn’t keep holding on.
Three surprising revelations about this:
1. You would think, if a U2 song were going to be about an archaelogist’s search for a holy grail, it would be “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
2. This movie is the end of the Indiana Jones trilogy – yet the song is called “One.” Bono should have called it “Three.”
3. It may be possible that Bono was not writing about Indiana Jones. Maybe. But that movie came out in 1989. “One” was released in 1991. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that Bono was sitting around Dublin, watching his favorite Harrison Ford movie, and wrote the biggest song of his career. In fact, I’d bet on that – because even if it’s not true, that makes for a way better story than whatever the truth is.