Jacob Richardson | 19/03/2018
Incredibly predictable, Tomb Raider only ever connects because of Alicia Vikander’s incredible talent.
This new, updated version of Angelina Jolie’s famous explorer introduces us to an Uber Eats driving Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), who is living rough in Shoreditch. After a brief, exciting but, ultimately, pointless bicycle chase, Lara finds herself in the hands of the police, where she is bailed out by her father’s ex-personal assistant, Ana Miller (Kristin Scott Thomas). Ana takes Lara back to her father’s company, intent on having her sign the documents that solidify the death of her father, missing since an ill-fated expedition seven years prior.
In this process, Lara stumbles across a clue, which reveals her father’s secret life. Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), it turns out, was obsessed with finding a fabled tomb on a mythical island somewhere off the coast of Japan. Lara makes her own way there, teaming up with Hong Kong pirate Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to take on Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) in an effort to stop the horrific contents of the tomb from being unleashed on the world.
Director Roar Uthaug seems intent on making the most bland action adventure film possible. Whether it’s nonsensical fight scenes, barely visible action scenes or utterly fake sets. Uthaug is, undoubtedly, not the director needed to bring this film to life. In fact, it’s not until we actually get down into the tomb that any of the action scenes start to hit, and even then a bait and switch with our villainess strips any believability from the film whatsoever. Uthaug, intent on trying to throw us off in any way at all, slips a number of ‘see it coming from a mile off’ surprises in, and each one elicits an internal groan.
It’s one that is easily mimicked when listening to the dialogue and scripting, which is a mish-mash of cliché action dialogue, poorly written and unenthusiastically delivered banter, and a weak emotional thread. Walton Goggins is trapped in a lumbering, sneering and ineffective villain, but at least he can act; the assemblage of movie baddies around him seem like it’s their first time on set. Daniel Wu is fine, but Uthaug bedecks him in GQ covershoot ready outfits and artfully placed scrapes of dirt that leave you in no doubt about how close his trailer was to the set. Coupled with a woefully underutilized Kristen Scott Thomas and a Dominic West hamming it up in his role as a constant source of annoyance, and the slate seems pretty much wiped of anything interesting.
That’s why it’s doubly annoying that Vikander is so damn good in this. Ripped as hell, she’s funny, endearing and a straight up badass. Whether she’s leaping across crumbling planes, sneaking through camps, taking on an army with a bow and arrow or riding her bike around London; she absolutely sells Lara Croft as a tomb raiding Brit – much more so than Jolie ever did. Vikander’s Croft is an incredible role model to young women, and Uthaug actually manages to steer sensitively around many issues that the original Tomb Raider’s had. Nowhere is this seen more than in Lara’s first kill, which is gritty, messy and utterly affecting for her. Hell, even the predictable familial sacrifice is given unexpected emotional punch with her performance.
Tomb Raider, then, is frustrating in the extreme. The movie is so generic, bland and tasteless on every other level than Vikander’s, and she does such a good job you just know that with a better director, and a better screenplay, this could have been a truly awesome film that spawned a Bond-esque franchise for strong, powerful but relatable women. Unfortunately, like so many other video game adaptations, this one disappoints.
Alicia Vikander is too good for the material here, but despite the ineffectual stumbling of director Roar Uthaug, she still manages to make Tomb Raider watchable.