July 18, 2010

Movie Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire

girl-who-played-with-fire-flickan-som-lekte-med-elden-poster-0Earlier this year I saw a movie called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was a movie that I had much internal debate about seeing. You see, it was a title I had not heard of before and it required an hour drive. It was a decision that eventually led me to make the trip to see it. I am so glad that I did, it is one of the very best films of the year and features one of my favorite performances of the past few years. It is essentially a procedural, but it has so much more going on under the hood. However, this is not about that film, it is about the sequel, which sees me travel even further to see. I came away no less satisfied.

These two films represent the first two stories of Swedish author Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, the third novel is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. The filmed adaptations were shot back to back to back and I can only hope to get a chance to see the third. My effort to see this second film saw me hop a train to New York City in order to see it at the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square, where I had to go up the biggest escalators I've ever seen to get to the fifth floor theater.

I went in with high expectations based on my love of the first film. I am happy to report that while it did not quite reach the heights of Dragon Tattoo it does succeed at creating an involving, taut thriller that furthers elements presented in the prior film while standing enough on its own to not require viewing of the first film. So, if you have not seen the first film and have the opportunity to see this, do it.


The Girl Who Played with Fire picks up some time after the first film. Mykael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is negotiating a deal with a young journalist and his girlfriend that would reveal names in a Russia/Sweden human trafficking ring. This is a big story for Blomkvist and his Millennium publishing group.

Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has returned to Sweden after being away for some time. There is a particular case that she has personal interest in. Of course, things do not go quite as planned as no sooner is she back in town is she is in some pretty serious trouble. A couple turn up dead and the murder weapon has her fingerprints on it.

Coincidentally, Lisbeth's framing and Blomkvist's human trafficking story dovetail in a fashion that intertwines their lives once again. What is interesting is the fashion in which the stories come together. There is the obvious connection between the two leads and that counts for a lot, but there is also something very organic to the structure that allows the stories to coexist, swirl around each other. They each have their arc and they have a combined arc that gives the film a full, accomplished feel as it comes to a close. It is a delicate balance that tipped too far in either direction could have spelled disaster for the feature.


I know I have likely done a terrible job describing the plot. Just trust me when I tell you that is very involving, interesting, and not boring, while also not being terribly fast paced. It is a movie that is always moving forward, always revealing something, always keeping your eyes on the screen.

What takes this movie (and its predecessor) to the next level is actress Noomi Rapace. Her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander is absolutely amazing. She is not your typical heroine. She is no damsel in distress nor is she looking for help. She is a troubled young woman struggling through the best she can. She is impulsive, she often jumps without looking, but she manages to do what must be done. Noomi Rapace's performance is fantastic, she conveys so much through her expressions and body language. She is downright mesmerizing.

Something that I did find to be rather interesting is that this film and the next were originally conceived as televised mini-series. The success of the first film prompted them to make these theatrical releases so the footage was edited down to two movies. I am interested to see what the original televised concept looks like.

Bottomline. This is a fantastic film with an intriguing plot that simultaneously uncovers some seriously bad guys while also allowing us into a little bit more of Lisbeth's damaged psyche. She is a fascinating character  with a complex past that we have barely scratched. The film begs to be rewatched and I look forward to it.

Highly Recommended.



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