Tomb Raider film review: Alicia Vikander takes on Lara Croft in this gritty reboot

Can the latest take on Tomb Raider break the videogame movie curse?

You’d be forgiven for having low expectations for Tomb Raider, given that the previous Angelina Jolie-starring films were trashy at best, and that video game adaptations never seem to work. But prepare to be surprised, because the Tomb Raider reboot is actually good.

We first meet Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft as a bike courier in London, refusing to claim her massive inheritance as it would mean having her missing father (Dominic West) declared as legally dead. But after learning about her dad’s secret side-line in tomb raiding, she heads off to find out what really happened to him.

There’s not much in the way of comedy or character beats in Tomb Raider – this is a rollicking adventure that leaps from one set-piece to another, choosing to reveal Lara’s character via her actions, rather than dialogue. Unfortunately, this stripped-back approach means that Walton Goggins’ villain is too thinly-sketched to be suitably detestable. Similarly, Daniel Wu’s Lu Ren hints at a redemption arc that ends up being less of an arc than a very short line.

But, frankly, who cares about supporting characters when Alicia Vikander’s Lara is this good? Vikander got into incredible shape for this role and clearly handles a lot of her own stunts. Her Lara looks like a real survivor, and Vikander has the knack of actually emoting during the various impressive action scenes, the tension increasing every time you see the fear in her eyes. She’s an absolute star.

Director Roar Uthaug has gone for a more grounded Tomb Raider than we’re used to seeing, with an opening bike chase in London reminding us that this is definitely the real world, and one that doesn’t have much time for magic and mysticism. It does, however, have a lot of time for spectacular stunts – especially one scene starring a decrepit old plane and a waterfall – bad-ass action heroines, and a whole lot of tomb raiding. This film clearly aims to be the first in a new franchise, and, on the strength of this, it will be.