Tomb Raider is the perfect example of an actor elevating otherwise generic material to thrilling heights.
Alicia Vikander is so magnetic in this adaption of the 2013 reboot (read my review of the game here) that she makes you look past the film’s shortcomings. Her charisma is off-the-charts, and she fits the role of Lara Croft more than Angelina Jolie ever did. Whereas the latter was a cartoonish superhero, Vikander’s Croft is a relatable young woman who takes hits and beatings along the way. She’s a survivor, and she endures a whole lot of suffering on her transformative journey to discover the truth about her past. Although Vikander is an Oscar winner, Tomb Raider certainly feels like a star-making turn that proves the actress can headline her own blockbuster franchise.
Sadly, the film’s script lets Vikander down. The narrative is shockingly free of any complexity; it’s a straightforward action film with predictable beats you can see coming a mile away. On the bright side, that means there isn’t any fluff – the film briskly hops from one action sequence to the other with varying degrees of success. All of the game’s most iconic sequences (yes including that unforgettable rusty plane) are brought to life in mindblowing detail. It genuinely feels like Lara Croft is a living, breathing character. The way she jumps, climbs, shoots arrows, solves puzzles, and yes, even grunts, is perfectly realized. In fact, I’d dare say it almost feels too similar to the game in some cases, instead of carving out its own identity.
Moreover, it’s worth noting that the film’s villain is a total dud. No spoilers here, but Walton Goggins is a painful bore as Mathias Vogel, a rival archeologist with nefarious motivations. He’s not snarky enough to make up for his one-dimensional goals, and he never really feels like a big enough threat for Lara. Infinitely more successful is The Affair‘s Dominic West as Lara’s dad Richard (the father-daughter dynamic is supremely touching), and Daniel Wu as Lu Ren, a captain who helps Lara gets to the story’s infamous island. If nothing else, I’d love to see Croft’s dynamic with Lu develop further in the sequel.
And really the prospects of a sequel get me very excited. The studio just needs to find a stronger script – one that only needs to be half as good as Vikander. I’ll say it again, she’s downright phenomenal.
Note: The CGI is sadly pretty sloppy. With a $90 million production budget, I expected much more.
There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but Alicia Vikander’s superb turn makes this a worthwhile watch.