09 July 2010

Review: "The Girl Who Played with Fire"

Since seeing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I have devoured all three of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy novels. I even saw the first film for a second time and it was just as powerful and shocking. The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second film in the saga and it comes to theatres when Seieg Larsson's novels have become even more popular. I was fortunate enough to get to see the film at a screening the night before it officially opened on Friday, July 9, 2010. The second film retains the principle cast from the first film and once again Noomi Rapace is mesmerizing as Lisbeth Salander. She embodies the heroine with so much power and conviction that the film's lack of intensity, compared to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is less pronounced. The second novel is just as powerful and provocative as the first and I feel that the blame for The Girl Who Played with Fire's lack of punch should be attributed to the change in director. Daniel Alfredson has taken over from Niels Arden Oplev and the novel's dark themes and the manhunt for Lisbeth Salander are absent from the film. While The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was aimed at those who had read the original novel The Girl Who Played with Fire seems more directed towards those who have seen the first film and not read the novels.

Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has not been in contact with Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) since the end of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She has traveled around the world and we meet up with her in the Caribbean as she finalizes the purchase of an expensive new apartment in Stockholm. She returns and reconnects with her former lover Miriam Wu (Yasmine Garbi) and offers Miriam her old apartment rent free. She visits her guardian, Niels Bjurman (Peter Andersson), the sadistic man who once raped her and reminds her of their agreement. Bjurman, anxious to get revenge, contacts an acquaintance and demands that Lisbeth be killed. Meanwhile Blomkvist and Millennium magazine have become involved with a freelance journalist named Dag Svensson (Hans Christian Thulin) who is working on a major expose of sex trafficking in Sweden. Dag and his girlfriend Mia are soon murdered and the murder weapon, a gun belonging to Bjurman, has Lisbeth's fingerprints on it. The police soon find that Bjurman has been murdered too and Lisbeth becomes the prime suspect. Blomkvist believes that she is innocent and their online friendship resumes, albeit sporadically, and she tells him to find a man named Zala. The police hunt for Lisbeth Salander puts Miriam's life in jeopardy and she is kidnapped by associates of Zala who are also hunting for Lisbeth. Blomkvist keeps certain information away from the police, including Jan Bublanksi (Johan Kylen) and Sonja Modig (Tanja Lorentzon), who are reluctant to believe that Lisbeth is innocent. The film unfolds with Lisbeth and Blomkvist trying to uncover the whereabouts of Zala separately and eventually Lisbeth's stubbornness puts her life in jeopardy.

The Girl Who Played with Fire is a fantastic novel full of great details and background information. Obviously the film The Girl Who Played with Fire cannot include every detail and the screenwriters and director have chosen to change facts and remove most of the background information. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was so powerful because the central elements and themes from the novel were present in the film, but I feel that The Girl Who Played with Fire becomes a thriller when Lisbeth Salander becomes a fugitive on the run. I did not feel that the film explored the manhunt with the same effect. Noomi Rapace is brilliant as Lisbeth Salander. She is such an introverted character that her most brilliant moments exist in her silence. I talked about the Hollywood remake of the trilogy in my review of the first film and since then there have been reports that Carey Mulligan has been cast as Lisbeth Salander. She is a tremendously talented young actress (who should have won the Oscar for An Education), but the film adaptations of the Millennium Trilogy owe every bit of its success to Noomi Rapace. The films, not just the novels, have become a worldwide phenomenon and it is ridiculous that an American film studio thinks that American audiences need an English-language version because it is unreasonable for people to see a Swedish film, even when the novels are of Swedish origin! The Girl Who Played with Fire lacks the tremendous intensity of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but it is still a good thriller with an amazing heroine that takes the audience on a great adventure.

My rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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