Directed by Daniel Alfredson
Written by Jonas Frykberg based on a story by Stieg Larsson
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
There is a moment 27 minutes into The Girl Who Played With Fire when Mikael Blomkvist, working on a sex trafficking investigation, gets a ride from his sister over to the flat of one of his new co-journalists from the Millennium group. Finding that his co-worker and his girlfriend have been killed, he carefully answers a series of questions from a detective. Then, detective gone, he is left there with his sister. After a long look into each other’s eyes, he hugs her and she him. Both of them scared as hell of what they are facing. Minutes of screen time later, he is with the rest of his Millennium team of journalists discuss the crossroads they have reached. Do they continue? Do they take the information they have and go to the police, thereby risking the lives of their witnesses? Do they publish? Their decisions are arrived at individually, but they share a collective passion: the truth. They forge ahead.
This is just part of the engaging quality of Larsson’s work. None of these people brandish weapons, yet they have to face those who do, often without the help of the authorities. Living in a country where news is considering who Jennifer Aniston is dating this week, it is nice to see this drive exhibited. It creates its own intensity and makes one happy to be associated with a race of people who are that driven to do good.
The other part of the draw of Larsson’s trilogy, the part described in the titles of his completed work, is Lisbeth, or in this case, the girl of the title. The trick of the title, of course is that Lisbeth, forever maligned and assaulted by those in power, is anything but a little girl. At
the beginning of the film, she is moving back home after an extended stay in the Caribbean on funds she obtained from Wennerström’s (the black market drug trafficker from the previous episode) off-shore bank account. She revisits her guardian Bjurman and reminds him that he is still under her watch. Here the story takes an uncharacteristic plot twist convenient for the story. After threatening Bjurman with his own gun, she inexplicably leaves the gun on his dresser with her fingerprints on it. Needless to say, this leads to major developments throughout the rest of the film. It is a rare short cut uncharacteristic of the rest of the work, but forgivable, when you compare the trilogy to just about anything else out there.
So, the Blomkvist’s partner on the sex-trafficking story, Dag Svensson, had been killed along with his girlfriend with the gun Lisbeth left behind, and so, of course, is her guardian. From here, Lisbeth and Mikael find, from different parts of town, that she is the primary suspect. Blomkvist leaves her a coded message in one of his television interviews and she is back online, looking into his files as they both search for clues on how the investigation piece and Salander are connected.
The Girl Who Played With Fire was directed by Daniel Alfredson (coincidentally, the brother of Tomas, who directed Let The Right One In), after the director of the first film (Niels Arden Oplev) backed out due to time constraints. While the original was intense due to the back
and forth of the two leads, this film allows a bit of breathing room, by showing different pieces move around the chess board while losing little of the intensity. The scene where Lisbeth’s friend is kidnapped by the “blond tank” while being followed by her boxer friend provides some nice fighting scenes and adds to the story at the same time.
The main components of the story, however, are working on all thrusters. Nyqvist has a very credible intensity that can allow you to believe him when you see him interrogating a john who asks him if he is aware that publishing will destroy his and his family’s life. He stares blankly at the object of his interrogation and says, simply:
Noomi Rapace has been rumored to be a lead in the upcoming “Alien” prequel to be directed by Ridley Scott. This would not only make the first worthy successor to Sigourney Weaver, but having Scott as her director could make Rapace a bona fide star in the U.S., for those who drag their feet watching this incredible series. She occupies the screen much like the serpent-like dragon tattooed on her back. She has many weapons in her repertoire and she has no hesitation to use them. It is nice to see the growth from her angry, vengeful waif in the first film to a lithe, understated and deadly (to men who hate women) monster in this film. She even curses herself as a child, when she committed an act of atrocity (presumably her first) upon someone for abusing her mother, for not simply killing him at the time. The practical way she states this is at once shocking and reassuring. Lisbeth Salander is of no harm to real men, like Blomkvist, who treat women with respect. She is the last thing the other kind would ever want to – and often ever do – see.
The Girl Who Played With Fire works as a sequel because it moves the story forward. You realize the labyrinth is closing in almost too late. By the time you do come to notice, you no longer care, because you are invested in the characters and you just want to see them get out.