Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life

2003, Movie, PG-13, 110 mins


An elaborate wind-up gizmo pretending to be a film, this sequel to the video-game based LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER is simply a series of set pieces designed to insure Angelina Jolie's status as action-babe pin-up. The busy but utterly inconsequential plot concerns a map engraved on an amber-like orb hidden in the 4th century by Alexander the Great in a long-sunken temple, and the terrible treasure to which it leads: the real Pandora's box, which contains a plague of unprecedented deadliness. Lara loses the orb to Chinese gangsters, and is press-ganged by MI-6 into retrieving it before it falls into the hands of Dr. Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds), who's in the business of manufacturing biological weapons. She agrees, on the condition that she can work with disgraced former MI-6 agent-turned-mercenary Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), who's also her former lover. Lara doesn't entirely trust him, but knows Terry can handle himself in the sort of preposterous, CGI effects-laden pandemonium into which plot contrivance will throw them with monotonous regularity. Lara's trusty sidekicks, Bryce (Noah Taylor) and Hillary (Christopher Barrie), mostly hold down the fort at Croft Manner, doing the odd bit of computer sleuthing while Lara trots the globe in revealing outfits. They include, but aren't limited to, a Bond-worthy black bikini, silver neoprene wetsuit, skin-tight jodphurs and the classic ribbed white T-shirt. All roads eventually lead to a pretty nifty sequence that unfolds in a blasted valley protected by grotesque, woody looking monsters that dissolve nightmarishly in and out of rocks and trees, followed by a much duller cat-and-mouse sequence in an M.C. Escher-style cave. The effect is, appropriately, like watching a game play itself. Jolie is a far better actress than this relentlessly shallow material warrants, and her performance is filled with small, supple notes, from the way she tilts her head to the subtly self-mocking way she delivers the signature Marlene Dietrich-esque greeting "Hello, boys!" That they're not entirely lost in the non-stop fireworks is a tribute to her skill and personal charisma. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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