Saturday, July 10, 2010

"The Girl Who Played with Fire" (2010)

Actress Noomi Rapace returns in the lead role of Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl Who Played with Fire," the sequel to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" based off the novels by Stieg Larsson. Lisbeth still has the dragon tattoo covering her back but now her hair has grown out and she no longer wears a spiked choker, but she remains living in complete isolation from others hacking into computers to find out any outside information. In the second movie starring her we learn a little more about why she lives the way she does. She has a past where she indeed played with fire, dousing her father in gasoline after he abused Lisbeth's mother. She was labeled as socially incompetent as a child by cruel men, and her motivation for vengeance is still fueled by men's violence against women. This is still greatly Rapace's movie whose eerie beauty combined with her nearly feral intensity makes Lisbeth Salander into a character who, even more so here than in the first film, keeps us watching.

The sequel comes from a new set of filmmakers than the last, written by Jonas Frykberg and directed by Daniel Alfredson. The results, however, are more or less the same. This one does feel slightly less polished than its predecessor, though, and the cinematography has less room to breathe due to so much plot trying to be stuffed, which results in a much flatter look than before.

Lisbeth has just returned to Stockholm after having escaped abroad at the conclusion of the previous film. Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and the team at Millenium have just hired a young journalist who's working on a story that reveals a sex trafficking ring with the assistance from research done by his girlfriend who just published her thesis on the topic. Mikael later finds the two journalists shot and killed in their apartment, and Lisbeth is soon after framed for the murders. It is then a fight for Lisbeth's life as she and Blomkvist each try to prove her innocence and find the real killers.

It sounds simple enough, but there is a large supporting cast that gets confusing to follow. Characters who were present before make a return such as Erika Berger (Lena Endre) and the absolutely foul Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson) whose previous encounter with Lisbeth was anything but pleasant. New faces include a detective named Bublanski (Johan Kylen) along with Lisbeth's occasional lover, Miriam Wu (Yasmine Garbi). Lisbeth and Miriam share a rather questionably evocative sex scene together. Then there's the villain who cannot feel pain, a hulking blond man (Mikael Spreitz) who looks like he fell out of the latest Bond film and accidentally found his way into Larsson's cynical world.

"The Girl Who Played with Fire" carries a whole lot more suspense than the last along with quite a bit more blood. It backs down, however, on the social commentary while trying to flesh out all the narrative details making for a much more convoluted film than perhaps necessary. And, inevitably, being a middle piece to a trilogy it struggles to stand alone unlike the first feature. This one is obviously preparing for what will probably be an impressive conclusion, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," which has its U.S. release this October.

The chemistry between the leads played by Rapace and Michael Nyqvist remains miraculously strong and compelling even when they share only one scene together; they are otherwise connected only by cyberspace. The rumor mill keeps churning out who may be playing Lisbeth and Blomkvist in Fincher's U.S. remake of "Dragon Tattoo" with sights now set on Daniel Craig and Carey Mulligan. Let's hope they're ready to fill some big shoes.

My review of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

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