Tomb Raider

I’m going to say it. This may be the best video game film ever.

Now, that might be considered damning with faint praise. It’s not like there have been any masterpieces in this genre. The best example I can think of is Resident Evil which was a lark and good enough to generate a slew of sequels of varying (but always lower) quality.

Tomb Raider feels less like an exceptional video game movie, and more like a serviceable (if slightly cheesy) action thriller. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have some of the video game pretensions. I’ll get to those.

Viewers of the lame Angelina Jolie films from a few years ago will see very few familiar things in this film. For example, they hired someone who can do a British accent. (Alicia Vikander is actually Swedish, but you can’t tell from this performance.) For another thing, this is a true origin story. This Lara Croft hasn’t raided a tomb in her life. More interestingly, she has refused to accept that her father is dead, so she won’t take any of his money. She’s living on the streets, delivering food on her bike. I immediately like her better because she’s not flaunting ridiculous wealth.

Soon enough she get a clue that sends her on a quest to find out what happened to her dad all those years ago. (We see said dad in a variety of flashbacks, played by Dominic West.) She meets a Chinese boat captain who we almost care about, who helps her get to a mysterious island near Japan.

The most interesting performance in the film is — get this — Walton Goggins. If you’ve never heard of this guy, you’re probably not alone. He’s best known for his roles on The Shield and Justified. You might have caught him in The Hateful Eight. Anyway, he was hired years ago to go to this island and find the film’s macguffin, and he’s trapped, unable to return to his own family until the deed is done. I liked this angle, of a man who has been twisted by his exile to do evil deeds in service of reuniting with his family. At least he wasn’t motivated by lust or greed, so that’s different.

There are a handful of moments that do feel like you’re back in the video game. Things Lara has to climb across, or jump onto. I definitely felt that if I was playing the game, it would have taken me a few tries to get those right. And one crane (or drone?) camera shot following her as she runs through the jungle was delightfully nostalgic for me, and thankfully, not overdone.

The finale is kind of a weak retread of some of the stuff we saw in the Indiana Jones films. (I won’t spoil any of the details here.) Not to say it isn’t exciting. It’s just not super-original.

Is this high art? Nope. But it’s a great example of what it is, and puts another solid performance onto Vikander’s resume.

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