Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft


A movie for every day of the year – a good one



13 February



The 500,000-year-old rock containing a spark plug

On this day in 1961, the Coso artefact was found by three people out hunting for geodes. It appeared to be a spark plug inside a rock. A geode is a hollow stone, rock or boulder formed either by bubbles forming in volcanic rock, or by the action of water dissolving away a space in a sedimentary formation, which then fills with different minerals – quartz crystals being particularly common. Either way there was little chance that a Champion spark plug from the 1920s, as used extensively in Ford Model T and Model A engines, could have found its way inside there. The finders, Wallace Lane, Virginia Maxey and Mike Mikesell, who owned a gem and gift shop and routinely cut geodes in half because the polished revealed quartz sold well, claimed the thing they found was a geode. Doubters suggest that it is a concretion – material which had formed fairly quickly around the spark plug. Still others (crytozoologists, believers in ancient astronauts or time travel, paranormalists and particularly creationists) prefer the term OOPArt – an out-of-place artefact. Fascinating though the find is, the actual age of the original “geode” is unclear since it has only ever been “dated” by a mystery geologist who never published their findings. As for the artefact itself, though its finders offered to sell it for $25,000, they were always coy about having it properly examined. Its whereabouts are currently unknown. Its status as an OOPArt seems relatively unaffected.




Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001, dir: Simon West)

The video game comes to life with Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, a punchy mix of Indiana Jones and James Bond, with the sort of upper class British vowel sounds that defeat any foe left standing if the fist and the foxiness haven’t felled them first. Plot: Lara charges around the world, collecting mysterious talismanic artefacts in a race against time blah blah blah. It’s not important. Before saying why you should watch this film, I’m going to quickly say why you shouldn’t not watch it, if you follow me. This first Croft movie has a poor reputation for several reasons. The first is that it’s tainted by association with the second, which is an indefensible piece of dreck. The second is that it’s directed by Simon West, who is considered to be a hack. He might be, but he’s the sort of hack who understands what nonsense is and what it should do – he directed Con Air and The Expendables 2 and he filled them with lots of ridiculous spectacle and fun; he does the same here. The third is that some people consider Angelina Jolie to be a good actress and so Lara Croft is somehow beneath her. But Jolie is not an actress, she’s a star. Watch her self-conscious performance as the mother who’s convinced her missing-now-returned child has been swapped in Changeling, the vanity project that Clint Eastwood directed for her, if you’ve any doubt. Which brings us back to the film itself, which is knowing bunk that has a couple of British comic actors – Chris Barrie and Leslie Phillips – tipping the wink early on to anyone who hasn’t quite got the tone of the thing. Then there’s Daniel Craig, getting a taste for big-budget effects-driven movies, a Brit playing an American, to Jolie’s American playing a Brit. Or, if you want to see it another way, a future Bond learning a lesson or two off the nearest thing the movies have yet got to a female Bond. As further evidence: exotic locations, lots of action, loquacious villains. And gadgets, gotta have the gadgets.



Why Watch?


  • Daniel Craig warming up for 007 – he even wields a Walther P99
  • Father and daughter Angelina Jolie and Jon Voight as father and daughter Croft
  • The most successful female action heroine to date
  • Play “continuity error” oneupmanship


© Steve Morrissey 2014



Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – at Amazon





Girl, Interrupted

Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted



Girl, Interrupted tells the real-life story of Susanna Kaysen, who wrote the original memoir about her enforced stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s. She was banged up after a pills overdose for what was termed a “borderline personality disorder” but the suspicion remains that she was being incarcerated at least partly because she was young, rebellious and pissing off her parents.

Director James Mangold’s film version turns the whole experience slightly into One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest redone as a 1960s Mean Girls drama. Instead of shock therapy there’s the withdrawal of TV privileges, straitjackets have largely been replaced by attentive, pleasant carers. And as for debilitating doses of recreational drugs smuggled in by visitors, there are none. Instead this hospital’s internal black market deals almost entirely in laxatives. Girls, huh.

Winona Ryder plays Kaysen as a teenager incarcerated for wanting to do her own thing. So not actually wacko at all. That role goes to Angelina Jolie, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of a girl dealing with psychiatric demons (the Academy does love a sociopath). If it sounds awfully fragrant and a touch like a boarding school melodrama, Girl, Interrupted does have its compelling elements too. Instead of going for Jack Nicholson-style shouting and eye-rolling, it focuses on the intimate and, with calmly assured direction, Mangold teases out small but intensely personal dramas, played out by a cast of names (Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Redgrave, Jeffrey Tambor) and up-and-comers (Jared Leto, Brittany Murphy, Elisabeth Moss). But it’s hard to ignore the charge that it is all a bit too girly. There’s even a midnight feast, for God’s sake. As for the book’s author, she hated it. Girls in their mid-teens might think otherwise.

© Steve Morrissey 2013


 Girl Interrupted – at Amazon