Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tomb Raider (2018)

Image is property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. Pictures

Tomb Raider (2018) – Film Review

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas

Director: Roar Uthaug

Synopsis: After an explorer vanishes without a trace, his fearless daughter Lara Croft sets out on a mission to his last known location, and to discover what exactly was the true purpose of her father’s venture…

Review: It seems as though there is one genre of films that whenever a new one is announced, that said film is doomed to be a failure before it is even released to the general public. This genre is of course films adapted from popular video games. It is fair to say that over the years, they have gained a reputation for being, simply put, not very good. Two such examples, would the two Tomb Raider films that starred Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s. Though they did not enjoy the best of receptions, the legacy of Lara Croft as an iconic video game character remains very much intact, so much so that another attempt at bringing perhaps the most iconic video game character of the 90s to the big screen was almost inevitable.

Indeed, a good decade and a half later, and here we are. In terms of our badass heroine, it is out with Jolie, and in with recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander who works in a pretty much dead end job in present day London, though questions still remain her regarding her long lost father. When she stumbles upon a clue that links to his last known location, she decides to set out in search of what it was her father was investigating. Of course it would not be a Tomb Raider film if Lara doesn’t find herself in a spot of bother when she lands on this island and must use all of her skills to negotiate the obstacles she finds in her path.

A badass with a bow, watch out Katniss…

For this film to really stand any chance of being a success, it was essential that they cast a capable actress in the lead role. Though casting an Oscar winner is by no means a guaranteed recipe for success, Alicia Vikander brought charisma and personality to the role. She compliments this the physical attributes that are key traits of what makes Lara Croft, well Lara Croft. Vikander gives a committed performance and showed herself to be more than capable of handling the physicality of the role and the demanding action scenes. Though there is nothing ground-breaking about the, these scenes are for the most part fairly well handled by director Roar Uthaug.

It is essential in a film like this that your main character is well fleshed out, and this screenplay does just that. It gives Lara a backstory that explores her origins principally  her relationship with her father and how that has had an influence on her and her tomb raiding adventures. Though it sometimes comes across as a bit soppy, as it is an integral to who Lara is as a character, it does its job. Once we get to the crux of the adventure though is where things start to get really interesting. The plot, certainly recaptures that gritty nature of the games, and while it is entertaining, could be deemed to be a little bit by the numbers.

Yet, for what it is worth, this lays the foundations for the start of what could well turn out to be a franchise. There isn’t a great deal of character development for some of the other characters, most notably Kristin Scott Thomas and Walton Goggins. Nevertheless, the film achieves its goal of delivering a solid adventure for the legend that is Lara Croft, with plenty of visual nods to the franchise that die hard fans are undoubtedly going to appreciate.

The story treads familiar ground, but a strong capable performance from Vikander anchors the film and proves that adaptations of video games aren’t all bad.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jason Bourne (2016)

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Image is property of Universal Pictures, Pearl Street Pictures and Perfect World Pictures

Jason Bourne – Film Review

Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmad

Director: Paul Greengrass

Synopsis: Ten years after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, Bourne is now laying low and living a relatively peaceful life, until an old acquaintance resurfaces with some new information on Bourne’s past.

Review: When it comes to near invincible badasses who dabble in the world of spies and espionage, then there are a handful of individuals that have established their reputations as the best of the best. The likes of a certain Mr James Bond, or Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne are ones that are more than likely will jump to mind. While the likes of Bond carry themselves with class and elegance, and usually kicking ass whilst wearing a tuxedo, the likes of Bourne do not carry such sophistication, but he will still kick your head in regardless if you dare to cross his path, and after spending years living his life free from any CIA entanglements, he’s back in the game.

The events of The Bourne Ultimatum saw Bourne finally get some closure about his past and how he got involved with this predicament and that appeared to be that. However one of his former associates now has some new information that could potentially lead to some new answers concerning Bourne’s past and so, somewhat reluctantly, Bourne is back on the grid. Of course, it isn’t long before the CIA have him back in their cross-hairs, under the new leadership of Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who will do anything they can to either capture Bourne or kill him, and so begins another enthralling chase across several continents and some very intense action scenes.

This is a role that Matt Damon has made his own, and is the role that the majority of people will associate with him the most. Although it is not his best performance as the character by any means, he is once again tremendous in the role bringing that grit and incredible fighting ability he possess to the fore. Out of the new recruits to this franchise, it is the work of Vikander, Jones and a ruthless assassin known only as The Asset played by Vincent Cassel that produce the best performances. Vikander, fresh from her Oscar triumph, shows great determination to lead the op against Bourne, all the while, trying to get him back on board. Cassel is usually bad news whenever he’s on screen, and here yes he’s very bad news indeed.

After coming on board to the franchise after The Bourne Identity, to direct the Supremacy and Ultimatum, Paul Greengrass has certainly cemented a reputation as an accomplished director of action. He is perhaps one of very few directors working today who takes shaky cam action and uses it, for the most part to great effect. By doing this the action scenes carry a lot of grit and realism to them, all the while making them utterly compelling to watch. This certainly applies here as the action scenes are once again tremendous, whether it be a chase in the middle of a riot or a high speed chase in Las Vegas, Greengrass knows how to get the viewer gripping their seat with excitement.

There is a sub-plot connected to a social media launch, and with several references to Snowden and the privacy controversy that that particular issues raised, thrown in there. Yet these do feel somewhat tacked on to the main story, which is that of Jason Bourne and his quest for the answers about his past. As such, you would have liked to have had a bit more on that story and less about Snowden and social media etc. The dialogue in places is a bit iffy too, and while it could have been better, you are here for the action. Nevertheless, Greengrass and co-writer Christopher Rouse have given us an exciting fifth entry to this franchise, and one will certainly hope that there will be more adventures with Mr Jason Bourne to come.

Bourne is back in business and while the action remains as gripping and as intense as ever with Damon once excellent, the story could have been much more streamlined to focus more on our titular character.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ex Machina (2015)

ex machina
Image is property of DNA Films, Film4, Scott Rudin Productions and Universal Studios

Ex Machina – Film Review

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander

Director: Alex Garland

Synopsis: A young man is selected to take part in a unique programme that develops and evaluates the world’s first artificial intelligence.

Review: As humans, we all go through life wondering what does it feel like to be alive? We all go through different stages, birth, childhood, teenage years, graduation, jobs and of course ultimately death. In these big moments, we are overcome by emotion and feel what it is like to be alive. But what if you’d been brought into the world by some technical genius who sought to create the world’s first proper artificial intelligence? How do you express how you feel? How do you convey emotions? Are you truly alive? This is the enthralling premise of the directorial debut of Alex Garland, who primarily is known for his screen-writing credentials on the likes of Dredd and 28 Weeks Later. However, his first foray into directing is a dazzling, beautiful piece of work.

In recent years, we have seen science fiction films go from apes with incredible intelligence, to time travel, and to interstellar voyages and back on a crazy big budget scale. Yet there is none of that crazy grand scale adventure here. At the heart of the story here, is a simple tale of humanity, emotions, feelings. Yet also at its core, its dark, dangerous and somewhat eerie. We have seen forays into beings of artificial intelligence, with the likes of Kubrick’s 2001 and The Matrix, yet nothing on quite the personal, intimate level that we see here in Garland’s sharp screenplay. The interaction between the AI being, played wonderfully by Alicia Vikander and the lucky (or is he?) programmer Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson. As they interact, you feel the tension building. Does he have feelings for her? Does she have feelings for him? Is she really that different from a human being? There’s no guns blazing, high intense action here, but the dialogue between the two is extremely riveting to watch, as their chemistry grows, it definitely provides some of the most intense dialogue so far this year.

By stark contrast, Oscar Isaac playing the eccentric playboy billionaire Nathan, gives off contrasting signals. Sometimes he’s very warm and friendly, other times he feels cold and detached, which one might suspect if you lived in a vast complex with a considerable amount of money at your disposal to build an AI. The relationship between the three characters is thoroughly compelling as you wonder if any of them have any ulterior motives. All three are electric together which should be encouraging for this December’s Star Wars. Yet by far the biggest shining performance is that of Alicia Vikander’s work as Ava. She maybe an AI but with every action she takes, she feels like a real human being. Sexiness and remarkable intelligence combined, every man’s dream.

For a directorial debut picture, the film looks immaculate, with wonderful shots of breathtaking scenery. The look of Ava in her full mode is also immaculately well realised. Sometimes in film, it can be painfully apparent that what you are looking at is CGI but not in this instance. She may look like a robot, but Vikander’s grounded and sublime performance will make you think again. Likewise, this film will have you thinking about its content and characters long after you finish watching.  This is a landmark achievement in CGI films, and will have a great impact on the genre going forward as it feels remarkably real and personal. Also this is not the last we will hear of Alex Garland as a director or Alicia Vikander.

A thought provoking, imaginative and original sci-fi flick with tremendous performances from the three leading actors and a wonderful directorial debut from Garland. 

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