The Girl Who Played with Fire
Directed by: Daniel Alfredson
Written by: Jonas Frykberg (screenplay), Sieg Larsson (book)
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Georgi Staykov, and Lena Endre
Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is one with her computer, an ideal that this Swedish adaptation of the Swedish bestseller makes all too clear by framing a close-up of her eyes and projecting the screen she sees over them. It’s an indelible, near-iconic image, and the film’s sole upstaging of the book.
The weak link in the adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s first book in The Millennium Trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was that it broke the suspense of the serial killer investigation by becoming almost as emotionally detached as its troubled heroine. Salander is the undeniable strength of both the books and the movies. Larsson has noticeably more invested in penning her part of the story, and both directors (Daniel Alfredson in this movie) have clearly had a ball unraveling her tale.
Noomi Rapace became a smash hit in Europe for playing Salander, and her performance is a huge reason for this movie’s success. She captures the life behind the dark eyes of Lisbeth, and the reason this movie works when it does is because she is a character you can truly invest in. This is a film that is better organized and paced than its predecessor, and although the tension is on-and-off, it is a step in the right direction.
As it is filmed, The Girl Who Played With Fire plays out like a Swedish version of CSI or Law and Order: SVU. After three people are murdered, Salander is pegged as the killer, and her former confidant/lover/investigator Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is out to prove her innocence. What he unravels is a conspiracy dating back to Lisbeth’s troubled childhood and a mysterious figure with the codename ‘Zala.’
Prostitution and the sex trade are the underlying moral dilemmas of the story, and the reason for the murders. This is how Blomkvist and the audience knows that Salander, the gothic feminist heroine, couldn’t have killed two people about to name the names of pimps, policeman and judges involved in the trade in a book and a dissertation. On the other hand, her former guardian Bjurman (Peter Andersson), who she blackmailed and tattooed so memorably after he raped her in the first film, is also murdered. Needless to say, that one is in the realm of possibility for her to have done.
Little time is wasted on the murders of these people though, because Salander is who people want to see. The other actors all pale in comparison and are easily forgettable, even the hulking blonde giant (Micke Spreitz) who’s also hunting her. The generic quality of the film making would also make it more suitable for a television miniseries than a big screen event. In fact, gutting Liersson’s story to make it fit into a two-hour film seems to be the real crime here.