Welcome to her Jungle – Tomb Raider (2018), dir: Roar Uthaug

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Amazing, thrilling and exciting is this Lara Croft reboot from the Norwegian director Roar Uthaug and his lead, Alicia Vikander. The movie taps into well-known themes (adventure, metaphysical mystery, father/ daughter relationship) and is imbued with the classic action feel of the likes of Indiana Jones. Needless to say, Tomb Raider celebrates a brand-new attitude towards its heroine compared to the previous two films starring Angelina Jolie, bringing the inspiring achievement of Wonder Woman (2017) in mind with regard to the representation of women in contemporary cinema.

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Vikander is different in that she is an athlete, an elegant and yet impressively powerful presence on screen thanks to her ability in conveying both physical strength and emotional vulnerability. It is very empowering for women, and I imagine even more so for young girls to see Vikander’s Croft running through the forest, drawing her arrows, falling down and getting back up again without a second thought, being afraid and yet, bravely facing danger and outwitting her opponents (and specifically, intimidating men).

Vikander brings acting quality in the movie and elevates Croft’s persona to an extraordinary and yet, realistic character (as much as such a type of movie allows her, of course). The weaknesses of the movie are not destructive and do not diminish it to a mediocre viewing. Let us not forget that this is the first film of the franchise and therefore, allocates a considerable time in introducing Lara to us and as introductions go, it rarely keeps up our interest for long, as action is more appealing.

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The most pivotal influence in Lara’s psyche has been her father so we’d expect an impeccable chemistry between the two. However, despite the filmmakers’ evident intention for the opposite, I found the scenes between Lara and her father (Dominic West) flat in tension, and her one-to-one scene with Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) too long and poor in flow. In my opinion, Dominic West although ideal for the role on paper he didn’t match Vikander’s generous emotional narrative ability.

Also, admittedly there is a repetitive “hanging” and unreasonably too far jumping patterns but somehow, Vikander makes it work by employing physicality and acting talent. Perhaps, loyal players of the video-game might see this as a humble attempt to stay loyal to the game…

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In contrast, Tomb Raider’s strongest elements revolve around its lead and entail series of chases, fights and emotionally tense moments. The introduction to Lara is in itself an exciting, dynamic affair as her attitude towards giving up in a box match clearly signals her feisty character. The “fox hunt” that follows is an electrifying bicycle chase in the streets of London that shows off her comic ability and joyous nature. She becomes instantly likeable and interesting and that is not such an easy an accomplishment!

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Other memorable, good scenes are when she finds herself into a river (soon to be waterfall) and manages to cling to an old plane, when she hunts down the small thieves who took her back bag, when she commits her first murder and when she faces Vogel in a brutal combat.  There are beautifully executed choreographed action sequences where we can admire Vikander’s dedication to giving us a realistic Lara, empathic, funny, traumatised but also, determined, brave and physically able for jaw-dropping exploits. She conveys drama without becoming banal, she instills complex emotions into a performance that is also physically demanding.

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After the film you might feel an intense need to run, throw an arrow or do bungee jumping. You might feel like experimenting in your next vacation by choosing a creepy, remote island as your destination, or you might fantasise about the discoveries you’d make if you ever decided to give up your conventional life and become an archaeologist (hat and whiplash are compulsory of course!). Finally, you might acknowledge how refreshing and urgent it is to see more women like Vikander’s Croft on-screen, women of remarkable physicality, brilliant wit and emotional integrity.


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