Friday, June 4, 2010
The Girl Who Played With Fire ***
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Caast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
Lena Endre, Peter Andersson, Per Oscarsson, Sofia Ledarp
Paolo Roberto, Yasmine Garbi, Georgi Staykov, Micke Spreitz
Michalis Koutsogiannakis, Hans Christian Thulin
You can't really blame Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) for hating men who hate women. In the second installment of the Millennium series not only must she face an entire police force looking for her but she also has to deal with a Jaws like henchman (Spreitz) and a terrible, haunting figure from her past.
Delivered with precise, IKEA like, workmanship by director Daniel Alfredson, the film lacks the cruel elegance of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but still manages to be a well made, vastly entertaining thriller.
A year has passed since Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist) last saw Lisbeth and having returned to his post in Millennium magazine, he's dedicating his time to the unmasking of a human trafficking cartel hidden deep within some of Sweden's most prominent figures.
When one of his journalists (Thulin) is murdered, the police reveal their prime suspect is Lisbeth and a simultaneous hunt begins as Mikael, convinced of her innocence, is set on finding her before the authorities.
Perhaps out of blame on the sophomore slump (or the middle syndrome in a trilogy), this chapter feels too much like a transition to have more resonance. Despite of the life altering revelations made about some of the characters, the lack of nuance between the central mystery and the characters' lives feels lacking (perhaps the previous film spoiled us too much?).
Alfredson's directing style is much more straightforward than Niels Arden Oplev's; while Oplev had a respect for the film's literary origins, he still imprinted highly cinematic qualities upon it that Alfredson disregards in favor of a more blunt approach (this movie feels more like a great TV pilot).
Yet whatever the film lacks in stylistic wonders it more than makes up for with the growth of characters that were already fascinating to begin with.
This time around with Mikael being more at the office we begin to get glimpses of what has made him a loner; his sexual/professional relationship with Erika (the enigmatic Endre) begins to paint a larger portrait of a man with a past more bruised than he'd make us believe.
Nyqvist is again, terrific as Mikael, playing him with a confidence that makes him more than, book author, Stieg Larsson's alter ego.
His line delivery is spot on, when he arrogantly reminds a police officer that he's a "private snoop and understands no jack shit" there's a quality of delicious self indulgence that makes his actually insane choices seem inspired.
Rapace as well is able to make Lisbeth evolve from the introverted creature she was in the first chapter, into a scarily determined woman with revenge on her mind.
She gets more physical this time around and quickly becomes an obviously iconic action heroine (think Jennifer Garner's Sydney Bristow meets Matt Damon's Jason Bourne), because Rapace is not afraid to dig deep into the darkness that devours Lisbeth, each of her actions involves a mystery upon itself.
If to this you add the melancholic mood that prevails in the darkly romantic relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael, you have the makings of an even more complex dynamic.
If The Girl Who Played With Fire is a tonal downgrade from the first installment it can't help but fill us with a sense of eventual satisfaction and expectancy, for we still don't know how Lisbeth got that dragon tattoo.