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"Lara Croft..."

WHEN THE first Tomb Raider directed by Simon West came, it was a grosser.

The fleshing of the character of Lara Croft was achieved by casting the sultry Angelina Jolie for whom this is tailor made.

The sequel Cradle Of Life has a Lara even more finely honed and appealing what with her adventures becoming more exciting and hair rising.

Except that this time the film has been directed by Jan De Bont, who has put together a venture that takes audiences through the most exotic places in the world in a fast paced, tightly packed journey.

With the splendid feel and look of a Bond movie beautiful, expansive shots over some of the most breathtaking locations the story begins when Lara is at the Greek isle of Santorini at a wedding.

The proceedings get disrupted by an earthquake which is cataclysmic for Lara to discover the lost temple of Luna which houses the treasures of Alexander the great-a repository which has some truly valuable artefacts and wealth.

This puts Lara back on the saddle of another adventure which makes her dive deep beneath the blue waters and in her forays finds a glowing orb that has the key to the mystery of the cradle of life.

But just when she gets hold of the gold globe a gang of raiders barges in killing her companions and stealing it from her. Lara is left with the ruins of the temple and sharks but makes her more determined to find it. Its not just a gold globe.

Obviously there is more to it than that. It has to be deciphered to discover the location of the mythical Pandora's' Box — a box that led to misery when opened and caused the worlds worst plague — which is why Alexander hid it at the spot where life on earth began. But then why did he provide a map? Cinematic licence one supposes.

Lara is not the only one after this box. There is the baddie Jonathan Reece (Ciarin Hinds) who designs diseases to wipe out populations in the world. And the British intelligence asks her to find this first but for that she would have to wrest the gold orb back from the Chinese gangsters who took it in the first place. And to find them she needs the help of a rebel commando terry Sheridan also her ex flame.

So the race is on to see who finds it first. From the spectacularly filmed Greek Isles, Great Wall of China, the skyscrapers of Hong Kong and the magnificent Mount Killimanjaro in Africa, the story traverses many landscapes.

Some of the action/stunt sequences are amazing. Besides Angelina Jolie does her job with vigour and grace. And that is worth a look.

CHITRA MAHESH

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