The best of trilogies have seemingly come when each film is made in close proximity to one another. The Lord of the Rings is considered the best of modern cinematic trilogies and was shot as one film, broken up into three by necessity, whereas others that have failed (Pirates of the Caribbean and The Matrix most prominently) all ended up being made as standalone films that received sequels seemingly for reasons other than story-telling ones. Learning from this, adapting the Swedish Millennium trilogy became easy as the films were shot all at once and released separately. After The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo found a niche audience and rave reviews on the art house circuit, the sequel (The Girl Who Played with Fire) did a similar thing.
When he last left Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) she had walked off into the sunset and Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) had exposed the man who sent him to prison for three months. Circumstance brings her back to Sweden while Mikael’s next big subject is to expose a sex trafficking ring. Accused of murder, Lisbeth ends up on the run while Mikael is off to prove her innocence leading to a violent conclusion. And while it doesn’t hit the levels of quality Dragon Tattoo, Fire holds its own as a terrific film with a more action beat than its predecessor.
Originally filmed for television, along with the third film in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Daniel Aldredson has stepped in for Niels Arden Oplev without the series missing a beat. The first film was much more of a police procedural (but without the police) and this one is more action-oriented set to the tune of revenge. It’s faster paced and significantly shorter in length but with just as much story. Oplev had a much slower, developed pace to the first film as he had a much denser story than Fire has. There’s more going on in the first than this but the overall story is roughly the same in length; Alfredson wisely opts to go for a shorter length and take out the slight padding the first one had. This is much more of an action thriller than a true thriller, as Alfredson brings a more action-centered focus to this film in terms of how he sets the film up. It’s faster and quicker, relying much more on a couple of minor cheats that are forgivable considering the film’s quality storyline.
The film’s real feature, though, is Noomi Rapace reprising her role as the titular character. Already starting to earn a name stateside because of the first film, and being up for roles other than being a bad-ass chick who wears leather, Rapace was brilliant in the first film and continues that level in this. Lisbeth is tougher and wiser than her years would otherwise dictate; Rapace was brilliant the first time and this is just old hand for her now. The first film allowed her to breathe life into an unknown character, now she has the ability to just absolutely own the part and expand upon it further. This is a case of an actress absolutely losing herself in a role that she owns. It’s no wonder that Hollywood initially had her pegged for being the next great female heavy and was shocked after meeting her; she is so good in the role that it’s hard to imagine her being a nice, sweet young woman.
With a cliffhanger of an ending leading into The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, The Girl Who Played With Fire is a worthy heir to the brilliance of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Presented in a widescreen format with a Dolby Digital surround, this is a film that was originally shot for television in Sweden yet has a first rate transfer. It doesn’t have a lot of great cinematography to showcase, and is mainly a dialogue focused film, but for what it has to do it does it well.
Outside of a couple of trailers for other Music Box Films releases, there isn’t much to the second part of the Millenium trilogy on DVD. It does have a first rate transfer onto DVD but it feels like Music Box if waiting for the Christmas season to arrive to release the trilogy properly onto DVD.
Music Box Films presents The Girl Who Played With Fire. Directed by Daniel Aldredson. Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist. Written by Jonas Frykberg based off the novel “The Girl Who Played With Fire” by Steig Larrson. Running time: 129 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: October 26, 2010.
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.