Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) (2009)

Director: Daniel Alfredson

**

And so, after the great beginning, the big flop. The film adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was such a success with critics and audiences that any kind of follow-up was going to find it difficult to match up to it. Then consider that the second chapter of the Millennium Trilogy is considered the weakest by fans, as sociopathic computer hacker Lisbeth Salander is threatened by the shadows of her past and convoluted plotting. Still, hopes were high that the film treatment could maintain the standards set by its predecessor.

Sadly, these hopes remain unfulfilled. The main problem with The Girl Who Played With Fire is the same problem that weakens the book, namely the overly dense plot. Jonas Frykberg’s script remains too faithful to Stieg Larsson’s text, and the pace of the film suffers as a result. This time around, Lisbeth (once again played by Noomi Rapace) is framed for the murders of three people, one of whom was a investigative journalist (Hans-Christian Thulin) whose exposé on sex trafficking was about to be published in Millennium, the magazine at which Lisbeth’s friend Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is an editor. The plot goes on to include Lisbeth’s kickboxing lover (Yasmine Garbi), a boxer (Paolo Roberto) and a gang of smuggler bikers. It all eventually leads to Lisbeth being forced to face her past, but not before the audience have stopped caring. Director Daniel Alfredson (brother of Tomas, the director of Let The Right One In) spends so much time trying to untangle the knots in the plot that he forgets to make it seem like Lisbeth is in any kind of danger. An (arguably superfluous) opening scene sees Lisbeth swanning around a Caribbean villa, planning her return to Stockholm having made millions with her hacking expertise. She has a hideout in the city, Blomkvist is working hard to clear her name and, being the sociopath she is, there is no sense of jeopardy since there is nobody that can be used as leverage. As a result, the midsection of the film drags frequently under the weight of all the exposition. Furthermore, Alfredson tries to make the film look more cinematic, and fails spectacularly. The fight scenes look amateurish, while a lesbian sex scene is awkwardly added to distract from the OTT plot. Meanwhile, the bad guy (Mikael Spreitz) is a towering blonde Aryan who feels no pain. He’d be more at home as a henchman in a James Bond movie.

The film has one saving grace: Rapace. She inhabits the role of Lisbeth with just as much dedication as the first film. Since Nyqvist’s role is reduced to the spouting of exposition, Rapace must shoulder the film on her own. She does well, but is not enough to save the film. The final installment, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, may explain some of the plot complications herein, but this does not bode well either for the final chapter or David Fincher’s American redux. The Girl Who Played With Fire has been badly burnt in the transfer from page to screen.

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