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Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

Tomb Raider (2018)

Directed by: Roar Uthaug

Premise: An adaptation of the video game. Lara Croft (Alicia Vickander) discovers clues to her father’s disappearance. The search leads Croft to an island that holds the secret to an ancient curse.

What Works: Tomb Raider is a fun adventure picture with a look that is distinct from other big budget Hollywood action movies. Although it is based on a video game, Tomb Raider doesn’t look that way. The movie was directed by Roar Uthaug who had previously helmed the Norwegian disaster flick The Wave, and like that film he presents the stunts and set pieces in a credible scale and with a tactile look. A lot of the movie plays out in medium shots that keep the viewer close to the action, the lighting is generally natural, and there are few obvious digital enhancements. Tomb Raider is an adventure film in the classic sense in which characters follow maps to an uncharted island and encounter physical challenges and booby traps. It’s an enjoyable throwback to movies of an earlier era like the Indiana Jones series which themselves were an update of 1940s adventure serials. The filmmakers of Tomb Raider maintain the momentum, keeping the action coming at a steady pace and doling out expository information without bogging down the story. Tomb Raider especially benefits from the casting of Alicia Vickander as Lara Croft. Instead of playing Croft like an unflappable action hero, Vickander makes the character accessible. She is tough and smart but also vulnerable. She gets hurt and loses some of her fights and she has a sense of humor and gets scared when the circumstances call for it. That makes her and the movie very likable. As much as it’s about the action and adventure, Tomb Raider is anchored by Lara Croft’s relationship with her father, played by Dominic West. The father-daughter bond between them gives the movie an organic emotional center.

What Doesn’t: The influence of the Indiana Jones films is very apparent in Tomb Raider and at times the movie goes beyond homage and lifts story elements right out of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Like that film, Lara Croft’s father has gone missing while searching for an ancient artifact. She discovers her father’s notes and instead of destroying them like he asks she follows his trail and unwittingly turns over his research notes to the very people he was trying to keep them from. The villains of Tomb Raider are weakly defined. As usual, Walton Goggins is good; he’s cast as the villain who oversees an army of mercenaries and a workforce of slave laborers. Goggins is weary and just wants to go home, which is an unusually sympathetic motive. But Trinity, his employer and the true villain of the story, remains on the periphery. Why they want the ancient artifact remains uncertain and the stakes over the McGuffin are vague. The filmmakers appear to be waiting for a sequel to delve into that but this film would have benefitted from a more clearly defined antagonist.

Bottom Line: Tomb Raider is an enjoyable adventure picture. It’s no classic but it is fun. Tomb Raider is clearly intended to be the first installment of an ongoing series and this is a solid start.

Episode: #691 (March 25, 2018)