Film: The Girl Who Played With Fire **
Release Date: 10th January 2011
Running time: 153 mins
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Sofia Ledarp, Micke Spreitz
The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second installment of the most successful foreign-language DVD release of 2010 in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It's also an adaptation of the middle part of the late Stieg Larsson’s best-selling 'Millennium Trilogy' crime novels. What director Daniel Alfredson didn't need is to be related to Thomas, a talented auteur that brought us the brilliant Let the Right One In (2008). Talk about pressure…
Back at the helm of Millennium magazine, Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) decides the best way to overcome his relationship problems with hacker Lisbeth is to throw himself into a new project and thus expose a billion dollar sex trafficking ring.
But when one of his researchers is murdered he realises there’s more to this story than first thought, especially when Lisbeth is framed for the crimes. Convinced that she is innocent, her refusal to acknowledge his existence creates obvious problems as he tries to clear her name and uncover the real killers.
Meanwhile, Lisbeth goes on the run and soon stumbles on secrets linking her secretive past with these new murders. Fearing her life is in jeopardy, she must reunite with a lovelorn Mikael and a past she wants to bury if she is to ever regain her freedom…
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was always going to be a hard act to follow, mainly because the epic-length thriller was so well crafted with barely any loose ends left to explore. But when you’ve got a character as good as Lisbeth Salander, its little surprise someone will want to venture into her world again, regardless of an inferior premise with laughable plot turns and pantomime villains. It even dares to follow a similar formula with its mix of mystery, detection and social criticism, leaving out, for the most part, the brilliant odd-ball romance that was arguably the highlight because it was somehow so strangely satisfying.
Michael Nyqvist, impressive in the first film, is truly outstanding in the follow-up, outshining even Noomi Rapace’s Salander. By finally growing some balls, Blomkvist has clearly read jack Bauer’s handbook on dealing with scum, discarding the torture (up to a point) but retaining the hard-as-nails, don’t-give-a-damn attitude that suddenly makes him so dangerous here (just watch him interrogate a suspect with three photographs). It’s as if he’s learnt by mimicking his beloved Salander, and yet she has disappointingly softened up a touch, isn’t too sure of herself, and sadly not as interesting because of it.
Director Alfredson continues where Niels Arden Opley left off, introducing a nice murder/mystery storyline, intersected with strong, sexual images and gritty realism that surprised so many first time round - yet the creepy romance between the two protagonists is soon ditched along with its opening potential in favour of James Bond villains, a lack of question marks and rubbish, tension-free (other than an all too brief well-orchestrated shoot-out at the end) seventies-Bond-style action. There are scenes involving two boxers that lack punch, while the stand-off between Salander and two bikers would’ve been more brutal masterminded by Disney - whoever did the choreography should never work in movies again.
The musical score certainly plays like a thriller though, even if the events unfolding are anything but. Oddly, if you take out the scenes involving the two major villains of the piece you would actually have a better film. They bring nothing but camp brutality reminiscent to watching a matinee Christmas performance at your local theatre – shouts of “He’s behind you…” by the whippersnappers muffling out your own screams of dissatisfaction. Fans can argue that Ronald Niedermann’s super-hero power, not being able to experience pain, echoes that of Salander’s photographic memory (underused here) but it’s half-hearted at the very best, embarrassing at the very least. They should just chop his head off.
Her father meanwhile, played by Georgi Staykov, may have the scars of a vicious past, along with a half-decent backstory, but it’s ruined by a veneer that’s comically tragic (for all the wrong reasons), almost matching a script able to declare, two thirds of the way through, that nobody thinks Salander is guilty – er, so why the drama? Oh, that’s right; there isn’t any, reiterated by another tame scene in which Salander digs herself out of a tight spot. The beautifully tender love scene in the opening half hour is sadly, long since forgotten, and somebody may as well serve a dry martini because this trilogy certainly needs shaking up, not a third part.
The only mystery with The Girl Who Played With Fire is how it manages to ruin all the good that came before it. Whereas the far-superior first outing left us gasping for more, here, a lack of mystery, pantomime villains and tension-free set-pieces will make the viewer whet a kitchen knife rather than an appetite for a final part.