TOMB RAIDER

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Roar Uthaug

Stars: Alicia Vikander, Walton Goggins, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Nick Frost.

Raider of the Lost Tomb?

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This is a reboot of the franchise based on the popular video game that launched an obvious attempt to create a female variation on the daring archaeologist Indiana Jones. The Tomb Raider series was first brought to the screen in 2001 with Oscar winner Angelina Jolie playing the kick-arse heroine Lara Croft. But it has been dormant since 2003’s disappointing sequel Cradle Of Life. This new film is based on the 2013 video game reboot of the iconic video game character, and it remains reasonably faithful to the source material.

Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, etc) steps into the role of Lara Croft, and she gives us a different sensibility to the character. This is a very physical role for Vikander and quite unlike anything she has done before, as she faces lots of trials, runs, jumps, swims, fights heavily armed villains and even works her way through a booby-trapped cave. She comes across as something of a cross between Ripley (from the Alien series), Katniss Everdeen (from The Hunger Games series) and Indiana Jones.

When we first meet Lara, she is working as a bicycle courier in London, trying to make ends meet. She has essentially turned her back on the Croft family fortune, because to inherit her money would mean that she would have to declare her father dead after he has been missing for seven years. The eccentric adventurer Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West, from tv series The Wire, The Affair, etc) had a deep interest in supernatural phenomena and was often venturing off to investigate, leaving the feisty and independent Lara home alone. He disappeared seven years earlier while searching for the hidden tomb of an ancient Japanese witch queen named Himako, aka “the mother of death”, who was the carrier of a deadly virus spread through bodily contact.

When Lara reluctantly decides to sign the legal papers to declare Richard dead, she gains access to some of his papers and videos, which give her clues to his intended destination. Immediately Lara sets off to find the mysterious sea captain who transported him to his final destination. She travels to Hong Kong where she meets a drunken sailor Lu Ren (Daniel Wu, from Warcraft, etc), who agrees to transport her into the heart of the Devil’s Sea and to a mysterious island. On this island she finds the villainous Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins, from tv series The Shield, Justified, etc), who has been driven almost mad by his obsession to find the lost tomb of Himako.

The script has been written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet (her first produced screenplay), Alastair Siddons (Trespass Against Us, etc), and Evan Daugherty (the Divergent series, etc). Tomb Raider is a blockbuster action movie that ticks all the right boxes of the genre. It also unfolds like a video game itself with various levels of challenges and rising levels of danger that our heroine must conquer. It also borrows liberally from the Indiana Jones playbook.

Tomb Raider marks the English language debut for Norwegian director Roar Uthaug (The Wave, etc). He merely seems to be going through the motions here with the action sequences that lack originality. However, he does avoid unnecessarily fetishizing over Vikander who spends most of the time clad in tight singlet and cargo pants. There are a couple of well-staged action sequences here, including a chase through a crowded Hong Kong harbour, that add a measure of excitement. But as usual, the film also overdoses on the CGI effects. It’s obvious that Uthaug has had a large budget to play with, and much of it can be seen on the screen.

For her part, Vikander cuts a fine figure here and makes for a convincing action heroine (joining a long list of other Oscar winners who have become action heroes, including Charlize Theron, Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, etc). She also brings a hint of vulnerability and depth to the one-dimensional video game character, who reluctantly grows in strength to fit the part of an action heroine.

West brings a touch of gravitas and earnest quality to his performance, and he is given a more substantial role to play here than Jon Voight, who played Lara’s father in the original 17 years ago. Goggins is wasted as the typical one-dimensional villain of the piece. Wu brings some comic relief to his turn, and Nick Frost contributes an uncredited cameo as a pawn broker. Kristin Scott Thomas lends a touch of class to her role as Ana Miller, Richard’s hard-nosed business partner who has her own agenda to follow.

Tomb Raider works well as an origins story to reboot this iconic franchise. It also hints at a sequel with brief mentions of a sinister organisation known as Trinity which is set on world domination.

★★★

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