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Soundtrack review: Tomb raider (2018) – (Tom Holkenborg a.k.a Junkie XL – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Tomb raider (2018) – (Tom Holkenborg a.k.a Junkie XL – 2018)

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“Tomb Raider” is an upcoming 2018 American action-adventure film directed by Roar Uthaug and written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, from a story by Evan Daugherty and Robertson-Dworet. It is primarily based on the 2013 video game of the same name with some elements of its sequel by Crystal Dynamics, and will be a reboot of the Tomb Raider film series. The film tells about the first expedition of Lara Croft, in which she embarks on a perilous journey to her father’s last-known destination, hoping to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. The film stars Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft, with Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, and Kristin Scott Thomas appearing in supporting roles.

I enjoyed the first Angelina Jolie movie from a few years back even if I never played the game. Alicia Vikander takes the female Indiana Jones suit now and she’s been on fire in the past few years with notable performances in “Ex-machina” or “Jason Bourne”, to limit it to the sci-fi / action genres. I was thinking that since she is married to Michael Fassbender they might have fun in the house dressing up as Lara Croft and the guy from “Assassin’s creed”. The score for the movie was written by Tom Holkenborg who after going back and forth between his real name and his alias decided to put both names on the cover.

Tom wastes no time and opens with a massive 8 minutes long cue “Return to Croft Manor”; I like the emotional opening, quiet and moody, with a blend of synth and orchestral that sets up the atmosphere quite nicely. In such a long cue there’s time to identify favorite motifs that start recurring and for me it’s a toss up between the somber, brooding string motif that hides a dark past and the lighter, shorter, synth insert. I know “Tomb raider” is all about the action but the composer is right to add some emotional depth to his story. I think this opening cue works like a suite of Tom’s ideas for this score. Ideas is a key word for this score as the composer plays with a lot of them without necessarily keeping a central one. I imagine the story gives him enough place to maneuver so we get sweeping cues like “Seeking endurance” and also electric messes like “The bag”.

The emotional connection with her father and following his last steps provides some of my favorite moments from this score because the music calms down and morphs into coherent melodic motifs that flow quite nicely. “Path of paternal secrets” is one of these cues and the title also has a nice ring to it. Junkie XL also inserts hypnotic little reflective motifs in some of the cues and those will always get to me. He goes into this state every now and then where he just plays the keyboards apparently absent minded but actually following a train of thought.

As far as the action parts go, “Tomb Raider” doesn’t reach the insane heights of
“Mad Max: Fury Road”; this doesn’t mean action music junkies will not turn the volume way up for a cue like “The devil’s sea” which I will try for my running playlists for sure. There’s also a section at the end of the mammoth cue “Let Yamatai have her” that gets my adrenaline pumping.

The thing about “Tomb raider” is that even in its weaknesses it helps the listener: while it’s an uneven score the range of moods Junkie XL brings means that there is something for everyone, from ambient to industrial to action. It is not the most inspired composition Tom’s ever written but I found enjoyable moments in it. As a standalone listening experience the score was also too long for my taste or for what it needed to be but in the context of the movie these multiple ideas and all the commotion made sense.

Cue rating: 80 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 18 / 71

Album excellence: 25%

Highlights:
Seeking Endurance
The Devil’s Sea
Never Give Up
Becoming the Tomb Raider
The Croft Legacy

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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