Movie Review – The Girl Who Played With Fire (2009)
by NIR SHALEV
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009) introduced the character of Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a journalist for Millennium Magazine who’d been hired by a rich man to find his niece who disappeared 40 years before. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is a gifted computer hacker who’d teamed up with Mikael and helped him to solve the mystery. As far as character backgrounds went, we were shown that Lisbeth had been subjected to a psychiatric institute when she was a teenager, apparently for setting her father on fire, and in the present time we saw that she was repeatedly raped and abused by her legal guardian. It was a tough yet satisfying film to watch, one that contained more psychological intrigue than the traditional thriller, and had a solid ending.
We grew to like Lisbeth and Mikael and saw the world change around them through their eyes. This sequel is lacking in almost every element that made the first film a great one. But this is still a good movie.
In this film’s intro, Lisbeth had left Sweden for a year’s vacation to random spots in and around Europe, and also to the Caribbean. Upon her return she moves into a new apartment and asks her friend and part time lover Miriam to move into her old apartment. She withholds from her the information that it’s for security and safety purposes. Meanwhile, Mikael is back at Millennium Magazine and the team investigates a sex-trafficking ring that operates from Russia to Sweden. When a new Millennium employee and his girlfriend are murdered, along with Lisbeth’s legal guardian, Lisbeth is framed for the murders and must go into hiding. A manhunt ensues to capture Lisbeth and she goes into hiding. It’s a good thing that she’d move out. Soon after, a ridiculously hulking blond man who can swing a punch like a man could swing a sack of doorknobs is on her trail and so is an ex-Russian spy that goes by the name of Zala. That’s all I can say in regards to the plot.
Compared to the first film, this one lacks tension and a real sense of mystery. In the first film, the plot was unfolding before our eyes just as it was for Mikael, because we were watching him work all the time; it was intriguing and the information that was unfolding made a lot of sense. It was about the detective work that led to an awesome and chilling conclusion.
In this film, the mystery unfolds only in the third act and any real detective work is missing from the overall plot. We don’t follow clues that make sense, we simply watch Mikael talk to different people without conclusions peering over the horizon, and the same goes for Lisbeth. Who Lisbeth and Mikael confront simply explains the third act’s conclusions and the audience feels rather left out. However, it does draw power from the fact that it’s heavily concerned with unraveling deeper, detailed information about Lisbeth and how she factors into the conclusion.
The actors still do a great job and we still really care for Lisbeth and Mikael. Mikael has a lot more self-confidence and walks proud and tall; he’s no longer afraid confronting strangers that may or may not cause him harm. And Lisbeth is as strong as ever. This time her hair is longer and she lets it hang down, looking more presentable and down to earth, but she can fend for herself even more than before.
The title The Girl Who Played With Fire refers to Lisbeth’s violent act toward her father and also is a metaphor for when she sticks her nose into others’ business. But if a good protagonist wouldn’t stick their nose where it doesn’t belong then we wouldn’t have a good movie, let alone a good thriller.
This film is a few notches below the first but is still worth watching simply because of the return of Lisbeth and Mikael; that and Rapace’s and Nyqvist’s strong performances. One thing that this film trilogy can count on is its great performances and I am definitely looking forward to watching the third and final installment.
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