The Girl Who Played with Fire – Review


Does the fire still burn bright in the second installment of the Millennium trilogy?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo caught me off guard, plain and simple. When I saw it, I had no knowledge about the film on any level, outside of it being a foreign film; yet once it was finished I knew I had just witnessed one of the year’s best. Now, just a few months later, the sequel to the critically acclaimed masterpiece has arrived, and the question is, can lightning strike twice?

That answer isn’t as clear cut as some may think. This isn’t exactly a sequel, as much as it is the second part of an already preset trilogy. The second part of a trilogy faces the difficult task of having to compete with the first film while also creating its own story that needs to take everything from the first film one step further yet still be unique and somewhat conclusive. It also has to set up the final installment of the trilogy.

It’s a tricky spot to be in, and few films in this position can do it perfectly, as audiences usually aren’t thrilled by the open-ended set-ups that leave the movie they’re watching feeling somewhat incomplete once the credits roll. This is the feeling I got while watching The Girl Who Played with Fire. While it’s still a great film, with fantastic lead characters, and the most brilliant actors the studio could have hoped for playing them, it just never feels as complete and fulfilling as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This may simply be because the film depends so heavily on both its predecessor, and the upcoming final installment in order to fully showcase its strengths.

The story takes place a year after the first film ends, and we learn that Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has been traveling the globe with her new-found wealth; both to avoid those who may be looking for her, as well as her natural sense to keep herself distanced from friends, lovers and anyone who requires emotional attachment.

It isn’t until she discovers that her legal guardian, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson), has an appointment to get tattoos that Lisbeth branded on him herself after he sexually assaulted her, removed that she decides it’s time to return home and remind him of his sins.

Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is back at Millennium, and is doing his best to move on with his life. The paper has hired on a new, young journalist, Dag Svensson (Hans-Christian Thulin), who brings with him a story about a sex-trade ring that can be linked to various politicians, judges, and members of the police department. The story, which can obviously destroy a lot of lives once names are revealed, also has a deeper connection, both to a mysterious gangster known as Zala.

Blomkvist finds Dag and his girlfriend murdered and the police have one suspect: Lisbeth. His mission becomes clear from there:prove her innocence. It’s his turn to help Lisbeth put things right, and sets out to find evidence of the true killers. Lisbeth is now back home, has been trying to reconnect on some small level with people she neglected, only to find out via the front page of the newspaper that she’s become a wanted fugitive. Using her computer hacking skills, she makes contact with Blomkvist, proclaiming her innocence, with him responding that it will take both of them to get to the bottom of this murder mystery and clear her name.

The Girl Who Played with Fire has a much different feel than its predecessor, as it plays as more of a thriller over a mystery. One reason this may be is due to the change of both the director and the writer, as Daniel Alfredson took to the helm this time around, and Jonas Frykberg wrote the screenplay. This sets a different tone for the film, and while it certainly can‘t be called bad on any level, it does lose some of the magic from the first film.

The enigma known as Lisbeth Salander is chipped away at, as there are a lot more flashbacks into her past, that help us learn why she is how she is. Meanwhile, the relationship between Blomkvist and Lisbeth unfortunately isn’t played to its full potential, as it was one of the things that made the first film so strong, and something audiences no doubt wanted to see continue to develop. While it’s hinted at throughout, it ends up being put on the back-burner in order to keep the pacing right. While this is understandable, hopefully it will be justified with a stronger bond in the next film.

Of course, the source material reaches upwards of 700 plus pages, so condensing that into a two hour film obviously requires some skillful writing. The first film was a perfect adaptation, and unfortunately it seems that certain things had to be cut from this film that may have helped make things a little more clear; which those who have read the book seem to be fully aware of. One thing that unfortunately wasn’t cut is an implausible scene in the third act that will make some shake their head, and really has no place in a film that should pride itself on its take of ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

So did lightning strike twice? The answer leans more toward yes than no; however, it’s a bit more complicated this time around. While the story is on track for the third and final installment, The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest, due out in mid-October, The Girl Who Played with Fire just doesn’t have the same glimmer of perfection that its predecessor wore. Though while it may not be perfect, The Girl Who Played with Fire does a fantastic job in the supporting role for the three films, while also holding its own.

Director: Daniel Aldredson
Notable Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
Writer(s): Jonas Frykberg

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