Friday, 13 July 2018

Tomb Raider

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, and Walton Goggins

Director: Roar Uthaug

118 minutes (12) 2018
Warner 4K Ultra HD
[Released 16th July]

Rating: 8/10
Review by Christopher Geary

This production is both a prequel and a remake combined. Tomb Raider is very much a comic-book styled origin story, a gritty adventure that’s something not unlike franchise re-launcher Batman Begins (2005), mashed together with TV adventure show The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992-3). It starts, of course, with a treasure hunt using clues that only the young Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) can solve. An inherited key opens her missing dad Richard’s hidden den for secret research projects to prove the supernatural is real.

This discovery prompts reluctant heiress Lara to leave London and embark on a mission overseas, and very soon she’s chasing after muggers. Ship’s captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu, Geostorm) saves her from a knife fight. These unlikely allies own a map and a journal for guidance but our heroes are on a trail that’s been stone-cold for seven years. The subject of this movie and the object of their search is Himiko, a legendary ‘Queen of Death,’ who was supposedly buried on an island that time forgot, but is actually still just waiting to be unearthed - and probably weaponised - by some corporate villains led by Vogel (Walton Goggins, TV show Justified).

In the stormy Devil’s Sea, the mismatched heroes’ old boat runs aground, but they do survive a shipwreck and reach the remote island’s mountainside. Lara manages to escape from a slave camp, and runs away from gun-men, but falls into further danger on a crashed WW2 plane that’s hanging over a waterfall, an unusual and precarious location for a parachute drop. Lara learns to balance reckless behaviour with courage, turning a grim determination into a moral purpose for her youthful passion. As a practiced archer, she takes up a bow and arrows against heavily armed mercenaries, and later encounters with a series of booby-traps in Himiko’s tomb results in a typical life-and-death struggle against ancient mechanisms, set-up to guard a mythical truth against modern intruders.

Lara is on a steep learning curve here and there’s significant growth for her character, in keeping with her father’s affectionate nickname ‘Sprout’, but the busy events of Tomb Raider form a sundry ordeals of endurance, a nightmarish testing of her mettle that’s forced upon Lara as a result of her somewhat rash decisions. There also seems to be an inevitability to her choices here because she is drawn to solving puzzles (her genius is presented simply as a gift, not earned by any close or intense study), and her father’s disappearance and his suspected death remains the biggest unresolved crisis in her life.

Swedish ballet dancer turned actress Alicia Vikander has enjoyed a quite meteoric rise to Hollywood prominence, with an eclectic CV of movies that includes a couple of genre hits. She played robot-girl Ava in Alex Garland’s controversial SF drama Ex Machina (2015), and the underestimated heroine of Guy Ritchie’s enjoyable spy-fi movie remake The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (also 2015). In Tomb Raider, the actress boasts a keen athleticism that helps to sell the movie’s set-piece stunt-work, and Vikander is clearly a worthy contender for any action-movie heroine of the year award.

Dominic West (Money Monster) is good value as Richard Croft, while the great Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour), and veteran Derek Jacobi, deliver extended cameos for their minor supporting roles. Norwegian director Roar Uthaug previously made horror slasher Cold Prey (2006), and disaster movie The Wave (2015), demonstrating his favourable ability to promote a strong female lead, and then cope with a larger-scaled production and its notable family-centric theme.

This Ultra HD format disc offers a fine showcase for skin tones and shadows, while rocky textures and dusty explosions all look stunning in HDR on this edition in a premier home-entertainment format. The crisp sound quality is utterly superb, whether capturing the noisy echoes of gunshots in the cavernous tunnels or a half-whispered aside in the Croft boardroom meetings.

As usual for a UHD release, there are some extras on the accompanying Blu-ray disc:
Tomb Raider: Uncovered (seven minutes) looks at how the movie's high production standards, filmed in South Africa, turned Cape Town into Hong Kong. Croft Training (six minutes) charts Vikander’s comprehensive fitness regimen. Breaking Down The Rapids (five minutes) examines the details of a major stunt sequence. Best of all, Lara Croft: Evolution Of An Icon (10 minutes) is a featurette on the franchise development of Tomb Raider, from its 1996 original video game that inspired two great movies - Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life (2003), both starring Angelina Jolie - and was an obvious, but often critically neglected, influence upon J.J. Abrams’ spy-fi TV series Alias (2002-6), that launched Jennifer Garner to stardom.

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