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Tomb Raider (2018)

Tomb Raider (2018)

Just yesterday a work colleague asked me who my favorite actress was. He professed his appreciation for Angelina Jolie (i.e. he fancy’s her). I however was stumped, who was my favorite actress of the moment. He pressed again, who was my favorite actress, my mind raced, who would that be? Instantly I thought of Barbara Bach and Raquel Welch but I figured he meant currently working. Hayley Atwell perhaps, known for her role as Agent Carter in the Marvel Universe? Maybe Gal Gadot for her turn as Wonder Woman? To escape the quizzing I blurted out “Jennifer Lawrence” but internally I still wondered, who is my favorite actress.

And here I sit, less than  24 hours later and I have an answer. I have just returned from watching the action-packed reboot of the “Tomb Raider” franchise with Swedish actress Alicia Vikander in the title role and she is so extraordinary I was literally in awe of her for its almost two-hour runtime. Pre-publicity suggested that Lara Croft had been re-imagined, doing away with the sexy portrayal that the aforementioned Jolie had turned in, but I would claim that Vikander’s brand of powerful athleticism is incredibly sexy. Sure, she’s not shown in the tight-fitting outfits that Jolie pranced around her two movies in, but Vikander doesn’t need them to be stunning, she has a poise and a grace that Jolie could never muster and when she turns on the heat the screen sizzles.

The plot for what it is worth, concerns Vikander’s Lara Croft seeking answers to the disappearance of her father several years earlier. He had ventured to an uncharted uninhabited island off Japan in the center of a particularly vicious sea in search of the tomb of a legendary Queen of Death. It seems a criminal organization known as Trinity is also hunting for the tomb and very soon Lara is off running through the jungle, escaping certain death in several fist-clenching moments. I held my breath several times, feeling the director ratchet up the tension as I tried to figure out how Lara would survive the predicament. I had heard from earlier reviews that the movie had slow spots in it and I have to wonder if that reviewer saw the same movie as I. For shortly after a ‘chase the fox’ bicycle race in the streets of London and Lara is in Hong Kong racing after a trio of thieves before taking to the high seas in a raging storm.

Full credit goes to Vikander who not only takes the action in her stride but is also able to pull off a very believable British accent. She balances the earnestness of her character’s search with measured humor and humanity to bring dimension to a character that (since the origin is a popular video game) could have been wafer-thin. My favorite scene could quite possibly be a sequence that finds Lara hanging onto an old plane wing above a raging waterfall. Vikander is ably supported in her role by British actors Dominic West and Kristin Scott Thomas as Lara’s missing father and her guardian respectively. Scott Thomas appears very briefly at the beginning and the end, though it is suggested she could have a larger role in any subsequent sequel. The villain of the piece is a suitably diabolical character named Mathias Vogel, a Trinity man-on-the-ground played with relish by Walton Goggins. Much of the humor is provided by sea captain Lu Ren played by Daniel Wu and his “drunken sailor” quip got a chuckle from the audience I saw the movie with.

It’s a foregone conclusion that I will want to see this movie again and again and I am hoping it gets a sequel because I can’t wait to see Vikanders brand of action heroine in more fare. This movie comes highly recommended.


Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished when she was scarcely a teen. Now a young woman of 21 without any real focus or purpose, Lara navigates the chaotic streets of trendy East London as a bike courier, barely making the rent, and takes college courses, rarely making it to class. Determined to forge her own path, she refuses to take the reins of her father’s global empire just as staunchly as she rejects the idea that he’s truly gone.

Advised to face the facts and move forward after seven years without him, even Lara can’t understand what drives her to finally solve the puzzle of his mysterious death. Going explicitly against his final wishes, she leaves everything she knows behind in search of her dad’s last-known destination: a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. But her mission will not be an easy one; just reaching the island will be extremely treacherous. Suddenly, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Lara, who—against the odds and armed with only her sharp mind, blind faith and inherently stubborn spirit—must learn to push herself beyond her limits as she journeys into the unknown. If she survives this perilous adventure, it could be the making of her, earning her the name tomb raider.


Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft
Maisy De Freitas as 7-year-old Lara
Emily Carey as 14-year-old Lara
Dominic West as Lord Richard Croft
Walton Goggins as Mathias Vogel
Daniel Wu as Lu Ren
Kristin Scott Thomas as Ana Miller
Hannah John-Kamen as Sophie
Antonio Aakeel as Nitin Ahuja
Derek Jacobi as Mr. Yaffe
Nick Frost as Max
Jaime Winstone as Pamela
Duncan Airlie James as Terry


Image result for The New York Magazine logo


Tomb Raider Is the Sort of Pulpy Action
Fun That We Undervalue

Published: March 15, 2018

Strange days. Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander as the young Lara Croft, opened to meh or worse reviews because we don’t need another stinkin’ remake of a lousy old movie based on an ancient video game and how lazy can studios be, etc., etc. What I saw — later than most critics, at an IMAX screening — was a tight, fast, well-made B picture that delivered exactly what it promised. I liked it much.
I’ll admit that the screening started off on a feel-good promotional note: Attendees were invited to dress up as Lara Croft and pose in front of the movie’s poster. A bunch of women did, affecting the requisite tough stances. Then an announcer yammered something about the lighting being wrong and called for Alicia Vikander to help out — and so, in bounded Vikander, who amid the YAAAAHHHHHHHs hugged each Lara Croft in turn and posed for a group photo. Then she made the same speech about how she’s always loved Lara Croft that I’d already heard on talk shows, but not from ten feet away, where it’s even more charming.
To the movie: Tomb Raider does everything right that last year’s The Mummy did so garishly, painfully wrong. It’s lickety-split, straight-ahead, with no dumb subplots. It opens on a note of loss. The vastly wealthy Richard Croft (Dominic West) tells his journal (and us) that he must take leave of his beloved daughter — his “Sprout” — to keep a nefarious agency from finding and weaponizing a demonic queen entombed in a mountain on an island off the coast of Japan.
That sounds complicated but plays very simply, and then it’s seven years later and Vikander’s Lara is getting herself smashed in a boxing-cum-wrestling ring by a larger opponent. Lara drags herself off the canvas and we learn that she hasn’t paid her club dues — she’s poor, even though she could collect her father’s fortune but won’t because it would mean she’d have to acknowledge he’s dead instead of missing-and-presumed. For some reason — maybe it’s a consequence of staring for so long at the smooth, dead-eyed faces of Don, Eric, Ivanka, and Jared — I found her ridiculous insistence on living by her wits and on her merits as worthy of a standing ovation.
But she is — there’s no escaping it — a rich girl and a Croft, and the Crofts have a lot of holdings and a neglected but vast manor on the outskirts of London. Her aunt Kristin Scott Thomas bails Lara out of jail after a long and well-edited bike chase I won’t bother to detail and convinces her to sign the damn papers already. But before Lara does, she’s presented with a photo of her and her dad, plus a skeleton key and a puzzle — she and her dad loved puzzles — which sends her to her father’s empty crypt, which sends her to his secret cluttered HQ for international derring-do, which sends her to Hong Kong, which sends her into perilous seas and to that Japanese island where who-knows-what awaits.
Yes, Tomb Raider is the sort of film in which a lot of people run after Lara shouting, “Get her!” One might liken it to a big-screen video game. Which it proudly is. The actual video game was very good and so is the action in this movie. Let me give you an example: Lara, whose hands are bound, gets away from her captors, who shoot at her, at which points she falls off a cliff into rushing water and hurtles towards a waterfall — at which point she manages to get her roped hands around a rusted, rotting little plane perched at the fall’s brink and, after much effort, somersaults onto a wing — which breaks off in stages, forcing her to leap into the cockpit, which promptly begins to slide into the falls (“Really?” she says) as she desperately tries to saw her hands free — at which point she whizzes through the air and lands with a thud in front of the camera, sitting up to discover a long piece of metal just west of her navel and having to slooowwwly pull it out — at which point a bad guy puts a gun to her head and she’s instantly embroiled in a tussle that ends on a painful, grueling note — at which points she notices a haggard figure watching her through the trees and gives chase — at which point …
The above is meant to suggest how swiftly the cliffhangers come and how wittily they’re connected, with pauses for Lara to knock someone out or get knocked out herself. Vikander has spoken of training hard for the role and most of that I’d bet was doing pull-ups, swinging along parallel bars, and scaling rock walls. Kickboxing, too, probably. Nowadays you can’t tell if a star’s head is on a stuntperson’s body, so what she really did and didn’t do I can’t say, but she looks like she’s doing a lot and splendidly, with verve and style. Emotionally, she’s all there — achingly vulnerable in the scene that follows the sequence I’ve described and fierce for the climax to come. She doesn’t have Angelina Jolie’s droll, to-the-manor-born insouciance, but Jolie was playing the later, more bureaucratized Lara Croft. This one hasn’t constructed her persona or built her team.
The supporting cast is fine. Dominic West pours on the pathos, which is just what’s needed in this sort of film. As the captain of the boat that Lara hires, Daniel Wu goes too quickly from tottering drunk to quick-witted decisive man of action, but he’s an agreeable fellow and I’d like to see more of him. As the villain, Walton Goggins has grown an asymmetrical beard and twisted his face in a way that makes him instantly dislikable. (I define “instantly” the way the Car Guys once did on NPR, as the time between a light turning green and the Boston driver behind you honking.)
The director is a Norwegian with the evocative name Roar Uthaug. I’ve only seen one other film of his, on Netflix, a relatively small-scale disaster movie called The Wave that I remember thinking was excellently made despite a lot of dumb old disaster tropes. The same thing applies here. The fights and chases are well designed. You can always tell where everything is in relation to everything else and who’s hitting or shooting whom — which isn’t a given, surprisingly, when fast cutting and loudness can cover a lot of infelicities. Here, the editing team of Stuart Baird, Tom Harrison-Read, and Michael Tronick make every shot land. The tomb being raided is scary, the payoff a happy surprise.
I’m probably overpraising Tomb Raider — it’s not that big a deal. But it’s not a small deal. Some of the reviews make me wonder if critics understand that there are gradations in junk culture, and that turning up one’s nose at something as deft and unpretentious as Tomb Raider suggests a reverse prejudice. I don’t want so many sequels/prequels/video-game/comic-book/CGI-laden movies either, but there’s a lot of space for good work between the high of Black Panther and the abyss of The Mummy.

My Review


Thrilling action adventure It's a foregone conclusion that I will want to see this movie again and again and I am hoping it gets a sequel because I can't wait to see Vikanders brand of action heroine in more fare. This movie comes highly recommended.

Leading Lady appeal

About The Author


Born on the English-Scottish border I emigrated to the US after graduating college in 1995 and became a U.S. citizen in 2007. I have served in the U.S. military and my past positions include as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Washington Post Company, a technical writer working on technical documentation for both a construction company and a large government contractor, a graphic designer creating graphics in support of government contract proposals, and as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy. which included being assigned as the official writer for the Navy and DoD on the assumption ceremony of a new Secretary of the Navy. I am currently a Web Services Writer for a large government contractor in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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