The Girl Who Played With Fire
|Michael Nyqvist||Mikael Blomkvist|
|Naomi Rapace||Lisbeth Salander|
|Lena Endre||Erika Berger|
|Annika Hallin||Annika Gannini|
|Per Oscarsson||Holger Palmgren|
|Peter Andersson||Nils Bjurman|
|Jacob Ericksson||Chister Malm|
|Directed by||Daniel Alfredson|
It would be a shame to mess up the heady momentum of the cinema franchise known as the Millennium Trilogy, so it's satisfying to report here that things are still pretty much on track. The new release, The Girl Who Played with Fire, may not be as good as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it's not chopped liver either. And as anybody knows who has engaged in discussions with people who have devoured all three of the Stieg Larsson novels, each reader has his or her favorites, and consensus is as elusive as truth in politics. The same will be true of the movies.
If you've been living in a cave in Tora Bora for the last year or so (you know who you are), and have missed the excitement of this series, the Millennium Trilogy is composed of three crime thrillers by Larsson, a crusading Swedish journalist who died suddenly of a massive heart attack in 2004, just before his literary offspring took the world by storm. As you would expect in the case of a man who dealt in skullduggery and conspiracy, his sudden demise has kicked up a hornet's nest of conspiracy theories, but there doesn't seem to be anything to them.
The novels are the two titles mentioned above, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which has been out in Europe since 2007, but was just published in the U.S. this May (the movie will be released here in the fall). The series has sold more than 27 million copies worldwide, with no end in sight. And the Millennium Trilogy may turn out to be a Millennium Quartet, if a fourth novel, said to have been left unfinished on Larsson's laptop, ever sees the light of day. At this point about all that's known of the phantom manuscript is that it was about three-quarters finished when Larsson died, and that it follows protagonists Mikail Blomqvist and Lisbeth Salander to the remote Canadian Northwest Territory hamlet of Sachs Harbor. But the book is wrapped up in a rights wrangle between Larsson's family and his life partner Eva Gabrielsson (who probably had some hand in the writing of the first three). Given Larsson's focus on the mistreatment of women, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't side with Gabrielsson in the dispute, but he's not around to give an opinion.
So – the story. In the first movie we met the main characters, the stolid but sexually prolific reporter Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist) and Salander (Noomi Rapace), the sexually abused ward of the state who can make a computer sit on hits hind legs and sing the Habanera from Carmen. Salander is petite, but she's tough as nails, and she's all about vengeance. If there is a lesson to be learned from books one and two, it's this: don't mess with Lisbeth.
Fire picks up a year or so after the end of Dragon Tattoo, and almost immediately gets its heroine embroiled in serious trouble. Blomqvist is back at Millennium, the muckraking magazine from which he had to take a leave of absence in Dragon Tattoo, and he has hired a writer who wants to do a searing exposé of the Swedish sex trade: the girls who are its victims, and the big shots, cops, and politicians who are its enablers, clients, protectors, and profiteers. The writer and his pregnant girlfriend are murdered, and suspicion alights on Salander. Tabloids scream "LESBIAN SATANIST SOUGHT IN DOUBLE MURDER", and Lisbeth must track down the real killers while avoiding capture. Blomqvist is separately trying to track them down, and to track down Salander, who is avoiding him. The two don’t actually share the screen until the finale.
The brutality in the new movie is not primarily sexual – there is nothing like the scenes of violation and revenge that stirred so much buzz in Dragon Tattoo, and the main sex is a fairly lively lesbian coupling – but there is plenty of violence nonetheless. As noted, Lisbeth takes crap from nobody, whether they be rape-inclined bikers or lowlifes from higher echelons. The villains include a blond giant who is immune to pain, reminiscent of Robert Shaw's hulking Russian assassin in From Russia with Love, a psychiatrist, and a former Soviet spy who turns out to have a startling connection with the heroine. The far-fetched action includes a plot twist at the end that would be at home on All My Children.
The movies were all made at the same time, originally as a miniseries for Swedish television, and then edited into three theatrical features. The second and third parts were directed by Daniel Alfredson (who did second unit duty on Dragon Tattoo). They're all competently done, but the main electricity of the films is generated by the character of Salander, and by Noomi Rapace, the actress who plays her with a fierce neurotic intelligence and bristling truculence, along with a vulnerability that she keeps buried beneath an arsenal of weapons and native resourcefulness. The Hollywood remakes, already in the works with David Fincher (Fight Club, Benjamin Button) at the helm, and Daniel Craig and Carey Mulligan reportedly on board as Blomqvist and Salander, will have their work cut out for them to make audiences forget the terrific Rapace.
© Text 2010 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be