The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Film review by: Witney Seibold


Both “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and its predecessor “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” are perfectly entertaining pulp thrillers in the airport novel vein. “Tattoo” was actually quite excellent, while its sequel is a little more contrived, but both are taut, exciting, and feature edgy, infinitely watchable performances by Noomi Rapace in the role of Lisabeth Salander, the liquid-sexual Goth computer hacker with a refreshing amoral sense of justice, and an antisocial streak a kilometer wide. Everything about both carries the distinct scent of the airport; Even if one didn’t know that they were based on a staggeringly popular series of Swedish novels by Stieg Larsson, one could likely intuit their literary pedigree; they are possessed of that certain brand of twisty plot and convenient double-crossing that seems all too common in most everyday thrillers.

Which is not to say that Daniel Alfredson‘s “The Girl Who Played with Fire” is, by any means, an everyday film. It’s really quite good. The story may feel contrived, and even a bit too controlled at times (compared to the organic whodunnit feel of the previous film), but we are anchored by a solid script from Jonas Frykberg, a resolute, non-gratuitous use of violence, and the performances from Michael Nyqvist and, of course, Rapace.

The story: Lisabeth has been living abroad, in hiding, on the riches he acquired at the end of the last film. Magazine writer Mikael Blomqvist (Nyqvist) has just started a controversial magazine article on a high-reaching sex trafficking ring, and longs to see Lisabeth again, although more for professional purposes than for romantic ends. When Mikael’s investigation begins (in a rather violent fashion) to reveal some shady criminals tied obscurely to Lisabeth’s admittedly shady past, he moves to clear her name, even though she is already a few steps ahead of him, and finding out who these sex traffickers really are. I won’t give any details, but I will say that you may see the twists coming, and the secret identities of certain characters coming to light to a slightly-all-too-convenient fashion.


“The Girl Who Played with Fire” is a solid film to be sure, but it’s one of those thrillers where everything wraps up a little too nicely. It becomes too preoccupied with its characters’ personal lives, and less concerned with solving its own central mystery. This is a classical sequel mis-move; rather than similarly involving – plot and mystery-wise – the same characters we’ve grown to love in the first film, the filmmakers decide to explore the origins and backstories of them. I would rather see them back in action, than really peer into their angst. I would rather see Lisabeth sneering through her piercings, glaring enigmatically from under her ultrablack hair, cracking knuckles, and perhaps harboring affections for certain people, than explaining to the audience how she got to be that way.

The film also has a seven-foot-tall meathead thug who kills with ease, a famous boxer playing himself (Mikael Spreitz), a steamy, slighty-too-exploitative lesbian sex scene, and an ending that answers questions, but feels like a lead-in to yet another film. I don’t mind in this case, the film still kind of had me all the way through, and that’s the best one can wish for from a good ol’ thriller like this. I eagerly await “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” in October.

On another note: I’m beginning to resent the word “trilogy.” Filmmakers and audiences alike are so hung up on the concept of a three-part story, that they’ll feel perfectly free to make a first, solid single film, then turn around and make a second film in which nothing is every explained or concluded in any significant fashion, making all second parts mere stop-gaps on the way to the third part.

My my my.

Published in: on July 26, 2010 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  

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