The Girl Who Played with Fire (Daniel Alfredson, 2009)


Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander), Michael Nyqvist (Mikael Blomkvist), Micke Spreitz (Ronald Niedermann), Lena Endre (Erika Berger). Screenplay by Jonas Frykberg. Directed by Daniel Afredson. Rating: 15. Running time: 129 minutes.

There was something about the first cinematic instalment of late author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy that made The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that little bit better than most crime-related mysteries. That film felt fresh, frighteningly cold in both its storytelling and setting, and it gave us a ridiculously intriguing female protagonist that remained stunningly elusive throughout. That small, leather-wearing, short black-haired cyberpunk with a history of violence and sexual abuse returns here, and when embodied by a little-known Swedish actress named Noomi Rapace, Lisbeth Salander ensures that at least whilst she’s on screen, The Girl Who Played with Fire feels as distinctively funky as the film that preceded it.

It’s a shame, then, that whilst that is undoubtedly the case, this second effort in the series somehow loses the magic of its predecessor in every other respect. The solid, stern-looking investigative journalist that Lisbeth accompanied on a project in the first film – Mikael Blomkvist – returns again too, but now he’s working alone to help clear her name from a triple homicide charge, whilst she goes on the run and retraces her past Bourne-style in an attempt to uncover who is setting her up.

The problem, unfortunately, is that the list of new names is so lengthy and the strands of the plot so convoluted, that the film ends up displaying an awfully messy bundle of crimes that is just too blatant in its attempts at staying loyal to a lengthy novel. Filmmakers don’t have the privilege of entering the detail that writers do, and when they fail to remember this most basic of lessons, the result is muddy water of the kind so clearly present here. When added to just how visually dull the series seems to have become, reminiscent of any slightly above average television thriller were it not for the character of Lisbeth, the warning alerts start sounding loud and clear in any trained moviegoer’s head.

There are mild sources of interest, most notably in the shape of a new blonde, block-like German villain. He’s kind of like a physical and mental fusion of the Coen brothers’ gormless serial killer Gaear Grimsrud in Fargo, and No Country For Old Mens similarly stoical, silent and terrifying Anton Chigurh. The only difference is that the guy on the murdering rampage here has a rare genetical defect meaning he never feels any pain, not even when Lisbeth uses her notorious electric zapper on his balls.

Ultimately, though, all of this falls far too short of the mark, and is a serious let-down on the first film of the series not because it goes over old ground, but because it covers new ground in a bad way. I haven’t even talked about the premature ending, that fails to tie up one too many loose ends and instead of feeling clever for being open, rather just looks daft for expecting us to somehow be psychic. After Dragon Tattoo, there were good reasons for skepticism about the forthcoming Hollywood remakes of the trilogy, but after seeing The Girl Who Played with Fire, nobody can doubt that there’s a good possibility that they might actually do a better job.

One Response to “The Girl Who Played with Fire (Daniel Alfredson, 2009)”

  1. 1 Bergomas

    Fantastic movie. 5 stars.

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