In the first scene of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft (Alicia Virkander) is pulverized in an MMA spar. A set piece soon after almost upstages everything to come. Lara’s broke, delivering takeaways. Tempted by the cash prize, she volunteers as the target in a game which involves her biking through Shoreditch and the City, while dozens of male cyclists try to catch her. It’s brilliant parkour choreography, with a reclaim-the-streets feel somewhere between Capture the Flag and Critical Mass. Lara loses focus and hits a cop car, splattering it with red paint. In a parallel universe, our hero remains the MMA-fighting London courier: radicalised by her encounter with the police, she organises her fellow delivery workers against the bosses and the state – a city opera with 94 million dollars’ worth of extras, explosions and car chases! But not in this world.
Lara is heir to a fortune, which she refuses to collect believing her father is still alive. Dad did little to build the wealth (too preoccupied with ancient Japanese myths), so presumably it’s hereditary. ‘Crofts always have responsibilities,’ her dad chimes in a conscience voiceover. Are they a one family Freemason lodge? The business empire – housed in a Canary Wharf skyscraper – is reminiscent of Wayne Enterprises. Lara is an oh-so British Batman. The plot chugs along, and we arrive at the Japanese island where her dad disappeared seven years earlier. By this point the film has a pounding by-numbers feel. What it can’t transpose from the video game is the tension and playfulness of the problem-solving. Virkander meets the extreme physical demands of the role, but regularly loses confidence in her face, abandoning one reaction for two or three in confused succession. But, like the best heroes, Lara is motivated by self-discovery rather than duty. She’s fallible. And – in a series of action sequences that are never violent or leery – rushing rivers, cliff edges, and ancient booby-traps are all dominated by her sheer, exhilarating strength.