15th Mar2018

‘Tomb Raider’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Nick Frost, Hannah John-Kamen, Jaime Winstone | Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons | Directed by Roar Uthaug


Alicia Vikander stars as iconic archaeologist-slash-adventurer Lara Croft in this enjoyable reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise, directed by Norwegian Roar Uthaug. Specifically based on the 2013 Crystal Dynamic game (and its sequel), the new film is remarkably faithful to its source material and the results are extremely impressive.

The Crystal Dynamic games are notable for making Lara a little more realistic and so it proves here. Accordingly, the film opens with a London-set prologue that serves to ground the character: Vikander’s Lara is introduced as a direction-less young woman, unable to deal with the disappearance of her adventurer father, Richard (Dominic West), seven years previously.

After receiving a video message from her father, Lara embarks on a dangerous journey to his last known location, a mysterious island said to be the resting place of Himiko, a mythical queen who possessed a deadly touch. However, when she arrives on the island, Lara is captured by Matthias Vogel (Walton Goggins), an evil mercenary with a connection to Richard, who forces her to help him excavate Himiko’s tomb.

The film’s more realistic approach extends to the physicality of Vikander’s performance, in which every jump, punch and kick is accompanied by a scream or gasp, to accentuate the toll it takes on her. Similarly, the film actively avoids many of the usual fantasy action clichés, often choosing to do something unexpected and surprising instead, such as Lara’s very human reaction after emerging victorious in a fight to the death with one of Vogel’s vicious henchmen.

The supporting cast are equally good, particularly Goggins, who opts to eschew the standard moustache-twirling in favour of underplaying it, to memorable effect. There’s also strong support from Into the Badlands’ Daniel Wu as Lu Yen (a drunken boat captain who helps Lara reach the island), while Kristin Scott Thomas is good value as Richard’s business partner, Anna Miller (not, as you might have assumed from the trailers, Lara’s mum). However, the scene with Nick Frost and Jaime Winstone as a pair of married pawnbrokers should probably have been cut, as it’s nowhere near as funny as the film seems to think it is.

Fortunately, Tomb Raider delivers handsomely when it comes to the action sequences, whether it’s Lara staging a rescue armed only with a bow and arrow, a thrilling chase scene set in the Hong Kong marina or the film’s show-stopping set-piece, an extended sequence involving a waterfall and the remains of a plane that will have you gasping for breath.

Clearly, the filmmakers have put a lot of thought into pleasing the movie’s built-in gamer fanbase and that attention to detail pays off beautifully – in addition to lifting entire locations, plot points and characters from the games, there are lots of little throwaway nods (such as Lara’s use of a climbing axe), including clever touches that will reward a second viewing. The film even mirrors some of the game’s playability elements, such as Quick Time Events and the feel of running through a corridor as the walls collapse behind you.

If there’s a complaint with Tomb Raider, it’s only that the dialogue could have done with a bit of a polish – it’s marginally better than standard video game dialogue, but that isn’t really saying very much. Similarly, considering how good a job the film does with every other element of the game, it’s odd that the puzzle-solving is so disappointing, lacking the satisfying cleverness in the clues and solutions that you find in the likes of National Treasure or the Indiana Jones movies.

That said, the combination of Vikander’s performance and the superb action sequences are more than enough to compensate for the film’s dialogue and puzzle-based deficiencies, resulting in a genuinely exciting action-adventure thriller that should please both fans and newcomers alike.

**** 4/5


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