Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of TOMB RAIDER

Tomb Raider, rated PG-13
***

Tomb Raider is an exciting and entertaining film based on the popular video game series. The series reboot (there were 2001 and 2003 films starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft) is directed by Roar Uthaug (The Wave). The screenplay is written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons based on a story by Evan Daugherty. The musical score is by Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road). The film had an estimated budget of $94 million.
Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Ex Machina) stars as 21-year-old Lara Croft. She lives in London working as a bike courier scraping to make ends meet. She boxes in a local gym but doesn’t even have the money to pay the owner for her time in the gym. Her mother died when she was young. She loves her father, but as we see in flashbacks, he often leaves her (Emily Carey plays a young Lara) for extended periods of time.
Her father, Lord Richard Croft, played by two-time Golden Globe nominee Dominic West (The Affair, The Hour), has long been obsessed with the supernatural. He has built up an impressive business empire, but left Lara seven years ago looking for the hidden tomb of the Japanese Queen Himiko, the Mother of Death, and hasn’t been heard of since. Though Lara hasn’t heard from him, she refuses to believe that he is dead. If she would just agree to sign papers indicating that he is indeed dead, she could be financially secure and receive her inheritance, but she can’t bring herself to do that.

***SPOILER ALERT***
But eventually she gets to the point where she is planning to sign those papers. In that meeting, Lara is given a mysterious Japanese puzzle that her father left behind. The puzzle may leave her some clues as to her father’s disappearance. She decides to leave London and search for her missing father.
She travels to Hong Kong looking for the boat captain that had helped her father seven years ago. But he is missing too. She finds his alcoholic son, Lu Ren, played by Daniel Wu, a Hong Kong boat owner who agrees to give Lara a ride to the hidden island located in the dangerous Devil’s Sea, where Kimiko’s tomb is supposedly located.
On the island, they meet Mathias Vogel, played by Emmy nominee Walton Goggins (Justified). Vogel is an archeologist turned corporate mercenary. He has spent seven years trying to locate Himiko’s tomb, funded by the mysterious Trinity organization.
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Themes in the film include self-sacrifice, bravery, family loyalty. Content issues include a good deal of intense action violence and some adult language, including at least one instance of abusing God’s name.
Alicia Vikander is excellent as the energetic and athletic Lara Croft. To prepare for the role, she put on a lot of muscle to play Lara, as she wanted the character to be as realistic as possible. She also wanted to do her own stunts. We see her leaping, swimming, running and shooting a bow and arrow.
Tomb Raider is an exciting action hero film and the end of the film sets up a sequel. I have to admit that I am not familiar with the video game, nor did I see the first two films, so I can’t compare this film to the game or previous films. But I did very much enjoy this well-made film without that background and look forward to the next film in the series.


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My Review of the Movie ‘Jason Bourne’

Jason BourneJason Bourne, rated PG-13
***

This is the fifth film in the Jason Bourne series, based on books written by the late Robert Ludlum. It is also the fourth time that Oscar winner Matt Damon has starred as Bourne. The one exception was 2012’s The Bourne Legacy, in which Jeremy Renner played the lead role as Aaron Cross.

The new film is directed and co-written (with Christopher Rouse) by Academy Award nominee (for United 93) Paul Greengrass. Greengrass also directed the second, 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy, and the third, 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, films in this series. This film had a budget of approximately $120 million.

As we pick the story up, the amnesiac and remorseful Bourne has been using his training to fight bare knuckle underground prize fights. During a riot in Athens, Greece, he is contacted by former colleague Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). She tells him about a top-secret government scheme that could be taken right out of our current news. Times have changed since Bourne has been away. So much now revolves around technology. Parsons has been working with WikiLeaks-like crusader Christian Dassault (Vinzenz Kiefer) and they are determined to reveal what CIA Director Robert Dewey (Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones), with the assistance of tech guru Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), has been up to.

Parsons has been able to steal some classified CIA files, which not only reveal Dewey’s scheme, but may also provide Bourne with some answers he has been seeking about his past. Parson’s hack is detected by Heather Lee (2015 Best Actress for The Danish Girl, and also Golden Globe nominee for Ex Machina, Alicia Vikander) of the CIA. She persuades Dewey to let her lead the mission as she tracks Bourne, trying to bring him out. But Dewey has other ideas, and contacts the Asset (Vincent Cassel) to finish off Bourne for good.

The film features exciting car chases and some great locations – Iceland, Washington, D.C., Athens, Berlin, London and Las Vegas. The Vegas scene alone took five weeks to shoot from midnight to sunrise, and reportedly 170 cars were wrecked.

Greengrass and cinematographer Barry Aykroyd (The Hurt Locker) capture the action using a lot of shaky hand-held camera work, giving the film a frantic feel at times.

It was great to see the now 45-year old Damon back in the role of Jason Bourne. The film is all about action. You’re not going to get a lot of deep dialogue here. It’s estimated that Damon only has about 37 lines in the entire film, and most of them pretty short ones. With Damon, Jones and Vikander, the film features a strong cast. But the emphasis here is on the action, not character development.

The film is rated PG-13 for spy-thriller intense sequences of violence and action, and some adult language.


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MOVIE REVIEW ~ The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man from UNCLEThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., rated PG-13
***

This film is based on the popular 1960’s (1964-1968) television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement), starring Robert Vaughan and David McCallum. It can be looked at as a prequel and sets up the possibility of a new series of films. The film is directed and co-written by Guy Ritchie.

The film is set in the early 1960’s during the Cold War. It starts out with an exciting opening scene featuring Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill of Man of Steel) meeting auto mechanic Gaby (Alicia Vikander of Ex Machina) in East Berlin. Victoria’s father, who she hasn’t seen for some time is a nuclear bomb expert. As Solo tries to get her out of East Berlin, they are chased by Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer of The Lone Ranger), who has incredible strength and tenacity.

After Solo and Gaby escape, they soon find out that they will be partnering with Kuryakin to save the world against a Nazi-like organization led by Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki). As they go undercover, Illya portrays a Russian architect and Gaby is his fiancée.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film which includes some good action scenes, deception, beautiful scenery and clothing, music, cars and technology from the 1960’s. Cavill and Hammer often did their own stunts in the film. Hugh Grant is effective in a small role in the film as Waverly.

The film is rated PG-13 for action violence and one scene of partial nudity. There is some sexual content, though nothing explicit is shown. For a PG-13 film there is minimal adult language, which was refreshing. I enjoyed the humor between the two main characters.

The film will inevitably be compared with Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, released just two weeks ago. Ironically, Cruise was originally cast to play Napolean Solo, but chose to make the Mission Impossible film instead. Cavill, who was at first considered for the role of Illya, was then cast as Solo. This film, though not nearly as good as Mission Impossible, is still an entertaining summer film, and worthy of a sequel to further develop these characters.