It has been fifteen years since Angelina Jolie starred as Lara Croft on the big screen. That best supporting actress Oscar winner has gone on to other projects and now we have another best supporting actress Oscar winner taking on the ironic character in a cinematic reboot of the franchise.
Alicia Vikander, who won her Oscar for The Danish Girl, stars as the title character in the new action-packed Tomb Raider. As the film begins, Croft is a bicyclist food delivery person. She rides around London — veering around traffic and pedestrians alike — on her way to her destinations. Croft has inherited a fortune from her missing father Richard (Dominic West) but refuses to accept that he’s dead.
When she visits the headquarters of her father’s business empire, she finds a clue and she embarks on a mysterious quest to discover what really happened to her Dad.
Unlike the two Tomb Raider films starring Angelina Jolie, this new feature is undeniably an origin story. It showcases Croft’s early interest in puzzles and her ability to survive and thrive in dangerous archaeological expeditions.
Surprisingly enough, it’s the film’s earliest action scenes that really stand out. In a realistic bike race in London and a gritty chase scene in Hong Kong, director Roar Uthaug really brings an exciting energy to the film. These scenes are grounded in reality and keep the focus on Croft’s ability to outmaneuver and outsmart every person who gets in her way.
In Hong Kong, Croft eventually teams up with a drunken sailor (literally) named Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) and the two travel together to a mysterious island. The island houses the tomb of a mystical enchantress and may have been the last known location of Croft’s father.
On the island, Croft is captured alongside Lu Ren by a greedy archaeologist named Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins). Vogel is hunting for the same tomb that Croft’s father was searching for.
Unfortunately for the story though, the plot goes downhill from there as the excitement from Croft’s origin story gives way to a forgettable story about a villainous tyrant hoping use the tomb for his own financial success. In a film that seemed so unique early on, it’s undeniably disappointing to see the story take a more traditional tone after Croft arrives on this island.
That’s not to say that there isn’t exciting on the island. One of the movie’s best sequences features Croft stuck on the wing of a downed airplane at the apex of a waterfall. All alone, Croft is forced to find safety as the plane falls apart underneath her feet. Even when you think the action is done, the director adds on another literal cliffhanger and there’s a wonderful excess to the way he stages this elaborate scene.
As her bad luck keeps coming, Croft even says “Really” to herself knowing how crazy her situation has turned out to be.
Apart from the plane sequence though, there is a general lack of originality on the dangerous island. It’s hard not to compare some of the forgettable archaeological action sequences here with scenes from Steven Spielberg’s classic Raiders of the Lost Ark, which really set the standard for films like this.
Still, there’s a lot to like in this new remake. Vikander delivers a solid performance here and really ignites some of the action scenes. The earliest action sequences really work as well and it’s exciting to watch them on the big screen. It’s too bad that the film’s unique footprint is lost as the disappointing plot leads to a familiar-seeming final act.
My grade: B-
Looking for more reviews? Make sure you subscribe to my YouTube page here.