Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
Rob Levy
7/28/2003 10:24:19 AM

Lara Croft is the perfect character for a complex actress like Angelina Jolie. Croft lives fast, loves hard, and is always balls to the wall. Who'd-a thunk that contemporary film's most notorious heroine would stem from a computer game Ė a culture mostly associated with geeks and societyís shut-ins?

Lara Croft is a heroine in the vein of Ripley in the Alien films or Sarah Connor in the Terminator films. However, Croft has a certain panache and devilish charm that most action heroines lack. Jolie's interpretation gives her style: she's made a complex heroine who definitely has her tongue in her cheek. Lara Croft thinks, manipulates and shoots her way through her most of her escapades with ease.

Tomb Raider 2 opens with Croft looking for Alexander the Great's Temple Luna, a lost archaeological treasure. Croft finds the goods, but her discovery unleashes a fateful turn of events that threaten the whole world, as she know must find a Pandora's Box before a madman calls shotgun on it and unleashes death, disease and so forth...

Just like the first film, we see Croft battling wits with an evil genius, bent on unleashing mayhem upon the world. The genius this go-round is Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Dr. Johnathan Reiss. Reiss has no scruples and wishes to sell the deadly relic to the highest bidder.

Eventually Lara realizes she needs help. Reluctantly she turns to Tony Sheridan, an ex-paramour currently in a Kazakhstan prison. Sheridan sold out his friends and his country, breaking Laraís heart In the process. After cutting a deal with British intelligence, she busts him from the clink and they are off on a quest to find Pandora's box.

The conflict here is that Lara must deal with her past. She needs Tony's connections. Croft needs this Mafioso group because they hold an orb, taken from Alexander's Temple that is vital to finding the location of the box. Eventually, Croft and Sheridan outwit the baddies and set off for the Cradle Of Life, in Kenya.

Itís in Africa where the box is hidden -- and itís here where Reiss and his cohorts will come, usurping natives and killing everything in order to get their hands on their prize. It is here, in Africa, where several climactic events occur, and where Lara will face her inner fears, harness her inner strength and kick some bad guy ass.

Everything associated with Lara Croft has its own flair, but it also bears the patch of past spy-get-villain plots, running equal parts Mission Impossible, James Bond and Indiana Jones.

This movie would be flat if the supporting cast were not also terrific. Gerald Butler is perfect for the not-so-sure-if-he-is good Sheridan. He is devious, devil-may-care and sneaky. His scenes with Jolie are believable, and he makes this Lothario likable which is tough to do in action films.

Ciaran Hinds plays heavies remarkably well. His Reiss is adept, evil, brooding and relentless in his quest for Pandora's Box. He wears the skin of a sinister megalomaniac brilliantly.

One drawback to Cradle though, is that it under-uses Noah Taylor and Chris Barrie. Taylor plays Bryce, Lara's computer wizard assistant, who is funny and has some great gag lines. However his presence that made some for lighter moments in the first film are gone unnoticed.

Chris Barrie on the other hand is a comedic genius. The star of Britain's comedy phenomena Red Dwarf plays Hillary, Lara's sparring partner, butler and confidant. He has the on screen smugness of John Clews and the droll humor of Rowan Atkinson.

Cradle Of Lifeís choppy plot, high suspension of disbelief quotient, loosely defined baddies and ominous apocalyptic peril make it a token action flick. But thatís not to say it isnít great fun. Jolie is obviously eye candy, and the dazzling action scenes donít hurt visually. Thereís also enough jumping around and shooting to keep anyone on the edge of their seat.

The cinematography is stellar for an action film. The varied locales of Greece, Kenya, Kazakhstan, China and Hong Kong really keep the audience watching. Furthermore, Croft is at home as an action heroine in each of these environs.


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