THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Yasmine Garbi, Peter Andersson, and Paolo Roberto. Directed by Daniel Alfredson. Rated MA15+ (Strong violence, sexual violence and sex scenes). 129 min.
Made in Sweden, this is a film of the second book in Stieg Larsson’s extraordinarily popular “Millennium” Trilogy. It continues the story of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the girl with the dragon tattoo, who is blamed for the murder of a journalist and an academic researcher, who are about to publish deeply embarrassing facts about the sex trade in Sweden, involving high officials. Her legal guardian, who has sadistically raped her, is murdered also, and her fingerprints are on his gun that has killed all three. Salander is targeted by the media for her shady and non-conformist past, and is on the run from those who want to kill her. Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is the editor-in-chief of the magazine (“Millennium”) that is due to publish the story, but he believes that Salander is innocent. The forces of corruption want to eliminate Salander before others get to her and she is kidnapped and taken to a farmhouse where she is shot and buried alive. The by-line for the movie is “a scorching kidnap thriller” which fails to do justice to the complexity of the movie and the story behind it. The film prepares the way for the unravelling of the corruption at high levels in Swedish Society, which will take place in the next episode.
Containing brief, disturbing flashbacks to “Dragon Tattoo,” the movie inevitably invites comparison with it. Security forces in Sweden are shown to be as corrupt as ever, and the familiar themes of corruption, fascism and hatred of women emerge, as before. The film unfolds its thriller plot much more than it focuses on the idiosyncrasies of Salander’s bizarreness. Here, she is a woman on the run, rather than someone who dominates the movie with the force of a lethal personality. We actually see a better side to Salander, which fills her character out, but gone are the brooding threat of the icy Swedish winter countryside and the pervading sense of evil that characterised nearly all of “DragonTattoo.” This film presents a complex tale of political intrigue, which is held together too tightly for anyone, who hasn’t read Larsson’s book, and it is unquestionably a pre-sequel to something that is intended to follow.
The film is at the edge of the restricted mature category (MA15+), and has a very explicit Lesbian sex scene (between Salander and Miriam Wu, played by Yasmine Garbi) that may catch the unwary off-guard. The violence is graphic, but less explicit than before, and the acting of the key characters (Salander and Blomquist) by Rapace and Nyqvist continues to be outstanding. Here, they are supported ably by Peter Andersson, who returns to the screen to play the role of Nils Bjurman, Salander’s evil guardian, and Paolo Roberto, who plays himself as the Swedish boxer who fights against the odds to protect Salander. Tension is maintained throughout by the surprise twists and turns in the plot, but the attempts at integration work better through Larsson’s eye for detail in his written word, than by Alfredson’s direction of this movie.
The movie will be very popular with all those, who were entertained by “Dragon Tattoo,” and most will await eagerly the impending climax of what happens to Lisbeth Salander in the third film of the series, which is due to be released within the next six months. It will help, though, to have read the intricacies of the twisting plot, before one buys a ticket to this movie.
This film is quality crime-cinema, but is not up to the standard of the first movie, which was directed by a different director, Niels Opleve, who will not be directing the final film in the series. This is a movie that is more matter-of-fact, less poetic in its camera-work, and less intense and unsettling than “Dragon Tattoo.” Nevertheless, the film is a very good crime thriller, that is produced stylishly, and commands attention. It is smart, but it doesn’t have you sitting on the edge of your seat, while its plot unfolds. “Dragon” did that, and maybe the final film in the series (“The Girl who kicked the Hornets’ Nest”) will do that again.
Peter W. Sheehan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out Sept. 23, 2010.