Girl Who Played with Fire, The (2010)
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Plot: As computer hacker Lisbeth and journalist Mikael investigate a sex-trafficking ring, Lisbeth is accused of three murders, causing her to go on the run while Mikael works to clear her name.
Rating: M18 for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language.
The sequel to the immensely popular and critically acclaimed Swedish mystery-thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010), The Girl Who Played with Fire unfortunately pales in comparison. The reasons are fairly obvious. First, the director has changed. Second, most of those who were involved in the first film did not work on this. Third, being the “bridging” story that connects Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the final installment, it is unable to succeed on its own without relying on the detailed back story and strong character development of the first.
Director Daniel Alfredson replaces Niels Arden Oplev, and the consequence is clear. Although Alfredson uses some visual elements of Oplev’s film, most notably scenes showing the extreme close-ups of laptop screens of both leads, Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) and Mikael (Michael Nyqvist), as they use their keyboards, much of the former’s directing style feels too conventional and lacks substance. The result is akin to an orthodox Hollywood thriller in a foreign language.
The film takes rather long to shape into something that is worth watching. And even so, it does not always satisfy. A huge factor for this is the relative predictability of the narrative’s twists and turns. As it plays out, the villains are already established even before the film hits the halfway mark. There is no real fear of the unknown, at least within the scope of the viewer’s knowledge. The “mystery” and crime solving elements are also not treated with such scrupulous care as the first, where the mechanics of investigative journalism is one of many fascinating aspects of Dragon Tattoo.
If there is some sort of consistency, The Girl Who Played with Fire features a stellar performance by Rapace, who outshines Nyqvist here. The latter is not to blame though; he has a shorter screen time, and his role appears to be more peripheral than leading, which is such a shame because the brilliant Rapace-Nyqvist screen chemistry in Dragon Tattoo is perhaps the most memorable part of Oplev’s film. Thus, it is quite disappointing to see that this chemistry is almost non-existent here.
The Girl Who Played with Fire gives about two hours of not-so-impressive entertainment. It occasionally offers more by dwelling deeper into the narrative but the characters more or less stay stagnant in development. I am still interested to see how it all unfolds in the final installment, but that is due to the strength of Dragon Tattoo rather than the “cliffhanging” ending of this average film.
GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)
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