Tomb Raider review: Lara Croft takes charge again

Welcome to the new age of cinema, where women are no longer the pushovers or damsels in distress of yesteryear.

Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft joins the ranks of silver screen females pushing back and taking charge in the new Tomb Raider film.

The story of a daughter searching for her father is the crux of the heroine’s journey here. The refusal to sign a will acknowledging his death or inherit his vast fortune, this incarnation of Lara is a determined, somewhat naïve one. But she is steadfast in her determination to find her missing father, Lord Richard Croft, played by Dominic West (The Wire).

London is where we first meet Lara, giving us a picture of a young woman still finding her feet as she silently deals with the emptiness of her father’s absence. Reckless behaviour, bold stubbornness and quick retorts assault the audience as her journey’s foundations are laid.

As the first and second acts merge, Lara’s discovery of her father’s hidden study and his work on the long-lost Princess Himiko’s Tomb, leads her to Tokyo and Len Ru (Daniel Wu). Their pairing is played nicely, and provides Vikander and Wu with a number of character-building scenes. None are overbearing, though at times the dialogue is questionable – a recurring problem throughout the film.

Walton Goggin’s Mathias Vogel is introduced to the fray and provides the push that will turn Lara into the woman she needs to become to survive. Providing a face for the villainous organisation called Trinity, Goggins is short-changed and deserved more screen time. We can only sympathise with him to a point in his quest to find Himiko’s Tomb, so that Trinity will allow him to return to his family.

The development of Vikander’s Lara Croft is a highlight of the film, as she evolves both mentally and physically. Croft 2.0 uses her brains and intellect to her advantage here, just as much as her athletic prowess. But it’s her emotional journey that drives the film; one scene in particular (no spoilers here) is a true turning point in the evolution of Crofts character.

As with anything associated with the Tomb Raider franchise, action and adventure is expected. And director Roar Uthaug (The Wave), delivers it in spades. The sequences spaced so never to take away from Lara’s character arc, but always moving the story forward. With a mixture of real-life stunts and uneven CGI, Vikander outshines the average effects and completely sells her performance.

Every hit, kick, fall and spill is felt as Vikander is put through her paces, transforming into the tough no-nonsense female warrior intent on stopping Vogel. This is a brutal performance of being fed through an emotional grinder as Lara is forced into self-preservation.

Tom Holkenborg –  aka Junkie XL – provides a complimentary soundtrack that is never over-bearing, though nor is it particularly memorable. Movie nerds will relish his Easter egg, where he gives a shout out to his Wonder Woman score, providing a link between the two strong, independent female leads.

Alicia Vikander has stamped her authority on the role and given fans a wonderful representation of the character, despite the few technical flaws. And for young female fans, she presents another heroine to look up to. The number of them dressing up as Lara at screenings around the world is testament to that.