from Indy Week

Tomb Raider
★★★ ½

In 2013, the venerable Tomb Raider video game franchise unveiled its tenth installment in the series, a complete reboot/origin story with a new emphasis on gritty realism and emotional stakes. The new game was clearly designed to retire the persona of the old Lara Croft—a stone-cold fox with cartoonish female proportions—and introduce the new Lara as a likable and vulnerable rookie archaeologist.

It worked. Tomb Raider was one of the best games of 2013, with a storytelling strategy that encouraged players to empathize and identify with young Lara. The back story was solid and the cinematic cut scenes were visceral and gritty. When Lara is forced to kill her first mercenary goon, she actually throws up.

The new Tomb Raider movie, based on that 2013 game, includes a similar scene, and it’s a perfect indicator of the film’s determination to reinvent the Lara Croft character for the silver screen. As played by the formidable Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Lara is no longer the sexy, icy killer of the Angelina Jolie movies. She’s young and inexperienced; tough and resourceful. She’s funny, too, and the filmmakers have a good time playing with the de rigueur video game tropes that longtime franchise fans will appreciate—watch out for those exploding red barrels!

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from Indy Week 

A few months after V-E Day, outside a small Hungarian village, two strangers disembark from a train that pours sinister black smoke into the sweltering summer sky. Dressed in somber black suits, the men hire a cart to transport two steamer trunks into the village. Their arrival and the rumored contents of their cart trigger a panic in the village. In conspiratorial whispers, the news spreads: “The Jews have returned.”

Director Ferenc Török’s 1945, based on the short story “Homecoming” by Gábor T. Szántó, is a grim parable about guilt and the wages of sin. Filmed in dramatic, high-contrast black-and-white, it borrows tropes from classic Hollywood Westerns to tell a story that moves through darker territories.

A quick bit of history helps: during and after World War II, many rural villagers in occupied Europe profited from the deportation of their Jewish neighbors. Ownership of all those homes and storefronts had to eventually change hands. Self-appointed local officials had a vested interest in this system. But sometimes, the Jews returned.

The film unfolds over one afternoon, and the story has the dark, elegant efficiency of a fable—the old and scary type. The villagers clearly share a terrible secret, and each reacts differently to the arrival of the strangers. The mayor scrambles to destroy incriminating paperwork. His wife numbs her guilt with morphine. Only the town drunk seems prepared to face the truth.

Török’s furtive camera peers through curtains and around fence posts. Small objects take on terrible significance: a property deed, a child’s shoe. Spare, haunting music adds tension and complexity to carefully arranged visual compositions. When the purpose of the strangers’ visit is finally revealed, it’s devastating. This is cinematic storytelling at its finest, and 1945 is one of the best films of the year.