Belfast Telegraph

Mary Magdalene: Follower gets feminist makeover


Revisionist drama: Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene
Revisionist drama: Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene
Femme fatale: Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider

By Damon Smith

A woman's most cherished asset - her reputation - is at the mercy of jealous, controlling men in director Garth Davis's revisionist religious drama, which tries to wash away the stains of ill repute from Jesus' devoted disciple.

Mary Magdalene quietly trades in solemnity, echoing the current battle for parity waged by the Me Too and Time's Up movements through the eyes of a misunderstood heroine at odds with the conventions of her time.

"I'm not sure that what happens to a woman is of much account here," laments Mary (Rooney Mara), who is portrayed as a much-abused feminist trailblazer rather than the repentant prostitute depicted in western art and literature.

As a handsomely crafted sermon about spiritual awakening and sacrifice, Mary Magdalene preaches to the art house masses with aplomb.

Unfortunately, the film observes the title character from such a safe, reverential distance, it's hard to connect with her on an emotional level beyond her soporific words.

The film opens on the coast of Judaea in 33 CE, where Mary of Magdala (Mara) tends the land with her brothers and sister.

The patriarchy strongly encourages Mary to marry a local man, whose children need a mother.

But Mary defies this edict and brings shame on her kin.

Soon after, Mary meets prophet Jesus Christ (Joaquin Phoenix) and he inspires her to join the ranks of the apostles.

The biblical scenes will be familiar to audiences of all faiths.

Mara and Phoenix deliver their lines with softly spoken earnestness, while Rahim teases out sympathy for his conflicted apostle, who will eventually betray Jesus.

But the tug of war between tradition and equality plays out far too gently to draw blood.

Three stars

Tomb Raider: Game on as Lara returns to the fray

Femme fatale: Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider

Lara Croft, the underdressed heroine of the Tomb Raider video game franchise, is a survivor.

She somersaulted onto the original PlayStation, has inspired comic books and defied the laws of physics in two lacklustre Hollywood adaptations, which shoe-horned Angelina Jolie into Lara's iconic vest and shorts.

Now it's the turn of Swedish Oscar winner Alicia Vikander in a big budget origin story.

The script is reverse-engineered from a slam-bang finale, which lets Lara delve into her bag of tricks: clambering, sprinting and somersaulting around a boobytrap-laden temple.

A pervading mood of deadly seriousness is enlivened by Nick Frost and Jaime Winstone as bickering husband and wife pawnbrokers, whose store room of weapons suggests a bright future as armourers to Lara in the rich cinematic tradition of Q and James Bond.

Seven years pass after his disappearance, Lord Croft's daughter Lara (Vikander) refuses to sign papers declaring him dead.

Lara travels to Hong Kong to charter a boat captained by Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), whose father vanished with Lord Croft on the journey to an uninhabited island in the Devil's Sea.

Action sequences pilfer design elements from Jurassic Park and Wanted but are slickly executed.

Director Roar Uthaug's picture isn't game over for further escapades with Lara, not does it emphatically kick ass.

It's more of a polite spanking.

Three stars

Belfast Telegraph


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