When journalist Dag Svensson approaches Millennium magazine with a detailed thesis about sex trafficking in Sweden, publisher Michael Blomkvist is only too happy to investigate. But when Svensson and his girlfriend (and co-researcher) Mia Johansson are murdered, and his old friend Lisbeth Salander’s fingerprints are found on the gun used to kill them, Blomkvist must attempt to pry truth from fiction in an effort to exonerate her.
The Girl Who Played with Fire is a tense and engaging thriller. If you have read the source material, then the plot developments are unlikely to shock. Actually, even if you are new to The Millennium trilogy, you may find that some of the plot twists are slightly contrived. Though Blomkvist is the primary character, the film’s story really belongs to Salander. While Blomkvist seeks to expose criminals, Salander endeavours to make them pay.
Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth Salander is a deeply troubled and dark young woman. Shot, beaten and buried alive, the end of the film sees Salander covered in dirt and blood, looking rather like Noel Fielding if he’d starred in his own version of ‘Two Girls One Cup’ (google it). She inflicts vicious retribution on anyone who wrongs her, exacting brutal punishments that include tasering a drug-dealer’s nether regions and tattooing ‘I am a sadistic pig, a pervert and a rapist’ on her abusive guardian’s stomach.
Salander must face off against the elusive Zala and his henchman Ronald Niedermann, who is amusingly described as a “blonde tank”: an unstoppable, emotionless force of evil. Suffering from congenital analgesia, Niedermann is immune to pain. He possesses the physique and power of Ivan Drago, the pain threshold of Robert Carlyle’s Renard in The World is Not Enough and the vacant look of Michael Armstrong in Hot Fuzz. Yarp.
One of the shortcomings of any foreign-language film is reading dialogue (even Quentin Tarantino, one of the masters of dialogue, couldn’t overcome the distance subtitles created between the audience and his words in the opening sequence of Inglourious Basterds). Given that we are essentially ‘reading the film’, and that said film happens to be based on a novel, why not just read the book?
The Girl Who Played with Fire lacks the unremitting tension and powerful performances of its predecessor. It sags considerably at the midpoint of the film, and the characters lack some of the depth established in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo yet you get the feeling that this is very much the second film in a trilogy and we will certainly be coming back for more.