Tomb Raider

 

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As Lara Croft, Alicia Vikander kicks Angelina Jolie out of the franchise.

 

Tomb Raider

Plane sailing: Alicia Vikander 

 

For a start, Lara Croft is not a tomb raider. Not in this version, anyway. The tomb raider is actually the amoral archaeologist Mathias Vogel, played by Walter Goggins, a villain with the closest set eyes since Bruce Dern in his heyday. But Goggins doesn’t pop up until halfway through Roar Uthaug's reboot of the video game franchise, which is a good thing. It’s good because, in spite of the film’s title, the best bits all occur before we even get to the tomb of the merciless Himiko, a Japanese sorceress.

 

One thing’s for sure, though: Lara Croft is one very lucky action heroine. Not only is she born with a silver spoon stuck between her pretty lips, but every time she’s been played on screen it’s been by an Oscar-winning actress. Back in 2001, she was embodied (and then some) by Angelina Jolie, and now by the Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. Ms Vikander, who won an Oscar for The Danish Girl, can play anything, from an English princess in the excellent A Royal Affair (2012) to the seductive android in the excellent Ex Machina (2015). And now she’s Lara Croft, an English heiress who’s never happier than when indulging her passion for extreme sport (boxing, cycling) or solving esoteric puzzles. She’s a bright young woman, although her dogged independence makes it hard for her to pay her bills as a two-wheeled courier in London. But what wheels, and what legs, and what a six-pack. The actress trained for six months to attain her athletic look, stating, “I loved the discipline, about transforming myself.”

 

Ultimately, any film, be it a musical, domestic drama or genre piece, is enriched by the credibility of its central character. And Vikander brings a humanity and vulnerability to Lara Croft that was nowhere to be seen in the earlier films. When she’s knocked down, we really feel her pain – and we feel her grit and her determination. The action scenes are well staged, too, from a thrilling cycle race across the streets, parks and pavements of central London, to a junk-hopping chase on foot across the harbour of Hong Kong. And a sequence at the top of a vertiginous waterfall, in which our heroine manoeuvres her way along the rusting hulk of a precariously balanced plane, is a masterclass in suspense. It’s only when the film goes all Indiana Jones on us that it loses its bite, but there’s still some ingenuity to spare. Besides, by then, Vikander has made sure that we have invested in her character.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Hannah John-Kamen, Antonio Aakeel, Nick Frost, Jaime Winstone, Emily Carey.

 

Dir Roar Uthaug, Pro Graham King, Screenplay Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, from a story by Evan Daugherty and Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Ph George Richmond, Pro Des Gary Freeman, Ed Stuart Baird and Michael Tronick, Music Tom Holkenborg, Costumes Colleen Atwood.

 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Warner Bros. Pictures/GK Films/Square Enix-Warner Brothers.

117 mins. UK/USA. 2018. Rel: 14 March 2018. Cert. 12A.