Apparently after winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar all roads lead to Lara Croft. That certainly was the case with Angelina Jolie after she won for Girl, Interrupted in 2000 and then starred in the first of two Lara Croft Tomb Raider movies in 2001 and 2003. Now, Alicia Vikander , after picking up the same Oscar for The Danish Girl, is showing off her action-hero cred in the new reboot simply called Tomb Raider.
This one from director Roar Uthaug actually takes its cue more from the re-energized 2013 version of the popular Tomb Raidervideo game that launched Lara than the previous Jolie movies. That’s not a bad thing, because as I say in my video review above this origin story is more character-driven, as least as far as the title star is concerned. It all rests on Vikander’s shoulders, and the Swedish-born star proves she has what it takes and then some. In addition to ably filling the physical requirements of the role, she also builds up a great deal of empathy for the character that has us rooting for her all the way.
In this version, Lara is a bicycle messenger with a penchant for boxing. Her father Richard (Dominic West), head of a global empire, vanished seven years ago and she hasn’t seen him since she was a young teen, though she always held a place in her heart for her dad. Sharp Croft Industries business associate Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas) wants Lara’s signature on the dotted line for her inheritance of her father’s business enterprises, but a Japanese puzzle box that comes into her hands just before sealing the deal convinces her somehow that her father may still be alive after trying to uncover the secret resting place and tomb of 16th century Queen Himiko, who is supposedly possessed of powers that can rule the universe. Or something like that.
Lara ditches the company and sets out on a high seas adventure to find the obscure island off Japan where she has learned her father was last headed. In tow with Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), the loopy and drunken son of the charter boat owner who accompanied dad on his journey, they set out to follow a map re-tracing that treacherous journey. Once on the island though she runs into a band of mercenaries led by evil Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins), who is also determined to find the key to unlock that queen’s tomb and revel in all the power he thinks he will soon possess because of it.
This is the point the film falls into the familiar traps of this kind of over-the-top adventure, and I have to confess the setup was more satisfying than the payoff. However, there are some primo action scenes including a corker of a wild river ride Lara is tossed into as she tries to hang on for dear life before going over the falls. She’s also got the chops to take on Vogel mano a mano in more exciting action sequences set in the actual tomb referenced in the film’s title. The thrill quotient is high for this sort of thing, and it is all a silly but entertaining couple of hours in the best old fashioned sense of the word. Gamers ought to love it, and you can thank Vikander for keeping it all together and making it work as well as it does.
Tomb Raider‘s producer is Graham King. Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons wrote the script. Warner Bros releases it Friday.
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