Review – The Girl Who Played With Fire

The Girl Who Played With Fire
Certificate 18, 129 minutes
Director Daniel Alfredson
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist

When I actually stop to think about the Millennium books by Stieg Larsson, it strikes me that they are pretty outlandish and that if I were to describe what occurs in the books to someone who’d never heard of them they might consider the stories simply preposterous. It’s only the level of detail and skill in Larsson’s writing that makes the chronicle and characters so compelling, but it’s also what makes it a challenge to translate these films onto the big screen. It helps then to have a strong and committed actor in the title role.

The extremely talented Noomi Rapace returns as protagonist Lisbeth Salander, haunted by a violent and disturbing childhood and, more recently, a brutal rape committed by her Guardian, Nils Bjurman. Unwittingly embroiled in a triple homicide, she must uncover the real perpetrators and in doing so face her past. She is aided in this quest by Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) who, although not having had any contact with her for more than a year, is convinced of her innocence and seeks to clear her name. It is unclear in the film quite why they have not had any contact for so long since their friendship began in Dragon Tattoo and they go about their investigations separately from each other, only communicating briefly via Salander’s hacking of Blomkvist’s computer.

Unfortunately herein lies a problem with the film. There’s no development of Salander and Blomkvist’s relationship, there’s no sense of what they mean to each other, given their history from the first film. If anything Director Daniel Alfredson seems more interested in some rather graphic girl-on-girl action (which no doubt will please some viewers) but fails to deliver the same chemistry between the two leads as was seen in Dragon Tattoo.

Fortunately Rapace continues to play Salander with intensity, portraying a troubled young woman who’s a kaleidoscope of characters – feminist, computer hacker, Goth, bisexual, social deviant, boxer, loyal friend. Yet in exploring the multitude of facets of this much loved heroine, other characters seem to fall by the wayside.
Arguably the book has too many main characters, so much so that in the film they all seem to be out on the periphery, carried along by the plot rather than driving it.
This includes the villain of the piece Zala and his hulk of a henchman Niederman.

The most disappointing aspect of Fire is the clumsy cinematography. Gone is the stylish feel of Dragon Tattoo (directed by Niels Arden Oplev) that drew in and gripped viewers; in it’s place an inelegant made-for-TV ambience that makes you question the level of experience Alfredson has in film (as a quick IMDB search shows he has produced/directed a number of Swedish TV shows. It also says that he directs The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – bah!).

Overall, a fair effort made only slightly better than average by the inimitable Rapace and suspenseful plot by Larsson.

One thought on “Review – The Girl Who Played With Fire”

  1. While I agree that the second film was not as good as the first, the criticism of the detailing of the relationship is unfair as it is made clear throughout that Salander has difficulty in connecting on an emotional level due to her past. This was portrayed in the first film in her leaving the bed after sex with Blomkvist; and in the second fim she is ‘lectured’ on the fact that she doesn’t know of her former guardian’s (the nice one) state of health because she hasn’t checked in for a year. In this film she is shown consciously trying to make up for the lack of connection by reconnecting with her friend who assumes that if she is letting her live in her apartment it must be because she wants sex in return. The ‘chemistry’ seen in the first film is purely from the journalist – Salander has not connected and it’s no surprise that she hasn’t seen him for a year, she hasn’t bothered to keep up with anyone. This is one of the central aspects of the character and not a flaw in the interpretation by the director.

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