|The first "Lara Croft" movie did good business at the box office, but was not considered a smash success. Yet the popularity of the game and the more than decent box office take seemed to demand that there be a sequel made. And given Angelina Jolie's expert portrayal of the adventuresome "Lady Croft" in the first Tomb Raider, seeing her tackle the role yet again in "The Cradle of Life" gives audiences the opportunity to see a capable actress take on a powerful role and squeeze a lot of excitement out of it. Jolie seems to have the best abilities of both worlds. She can play the dramatic "character" piece, but also seems at home with a pair of guns and a few knives strapped to various parts of her body. Whether she's swinging through the air on some daredevil stunt or pumping up the emotion of a scene to a fever pitch, Jolie has a range of abilities that few actresses can boast.|
And since Cradle possesses a superior story-line than the first Croft adventure, fans of the computer games should feel heartened that the stunts and action in this movie stretches from minute one until the end. Whereas the first film was unable to reconcile its expositional dialogue with the plot, Cradle explains to the audience the tedious facts that a viewer needs to know without putting the film on hold to do it. And since much of the film is comprised of various death-defying stunts, it should also be noted that none of these sequences hang on for very long. The film runs along at an incredible pace, making no blunders in keeping the audience in one scene for too long.
The film takes place on three different continents and cinematographer David Tattersall squeezes as much reality out of the locations as possible, with the additional visual landscape effects blending in well with the scenery. The real visual draw of this film though is the stunt work. With a ridiculous amount of jumping, sailing, flying, and kicking in Lady Croft's repertoire, it's obvious that filmmakers wanted to echo the physical nature of the first-person shooter style video game upon which the film is based. Jolie handled her stunts with grace (as did her stunt-doubles!) as did co-star, Gerard Butler, who seemed just as at home with a gun on his shoulder and a face full of sweat.
And it's an interesting relationship the two characters have on screen as the details of their rocky history together are revealed over the course of the film. Although their arguments might seem, at first glance, like a hasty addition to the script (to get a romantic angle into the film), it's interesting to see that the screenwriter, Dean Georgaris, made a rather good effort at making the romance angle more than just an angle or standard addition to the story. While enlarging the plot with a relationship device is an often used technique in action films (there's always somebody the hero/heroine has to save, right?), the love story in this film actually seems to belong.
One of the only failings of the film seems to be the under-used supporting cast. Playing an underling to Ciarán Hinds' evil character, "Reiss," accomplished German actor Til Schweiger is relegated to that rather minor role when he might have served well in the lead role of head bad guy. Though Hinds' performance is more than sufficient for the film, it seems somewhat cliché that the heroine's adversary is a smooth talking Englishman. Because after all, aren't all bad guys English? And Lara's computer nerd friend, "Bryce," played by the underappreciated Noah Taylor, seems to have less of a presence in this film than he did in the last and the sequel is lacking for it.
If the next Lara Croft adventure is at all as entertaining as this second installment, the franchise will certainly have a long and prosperous future. While the box office draw of a female action star might not yet be on par with the money-making capabilities of a personality such as Arnold S., the era of action films being released solely with male leads is over. While there will always be male dominated action films (and why shouldn't there be?), viewers should look forward to seeing both genders in strong roles on the screen in years to come. And in The Cradle of Life, a good combination of action, acting, and humor make the film a highly charged experience that will leave its audiences feeling entertained and satisfied with the money they spent on their ticket.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.