By Dirk Sonniksen | July 16, 2010
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Writers: Jonas Frykberg (screenplay), Stieg Larsson (novel)
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre
The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, a Swedish crime drama that picks up where The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo left off. Here we find Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) on a sabbatical of sorts, but quickly being sucked back into the criminal vortex of her past. Salander seems to easily find trouble, and soon is wanted for a triple murder. The excitement begins, with Salander and her old pal Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) again embroiled in a mystery that will force them to don their detective hats and find the killer.
Much like the book, The Girl Who Played With Fire is a swirling, shifting network of characters that are continually introduced throughout the film. While this approach stayed true to Larsson’s vision, it likely proved problematic for those who were not familiar with the books. Add to that the barrage of tongue-twisting Swedish names, and near-constant scene changes, and the problem only grows for those unfamiliar with Larsson’s work. While I am well acquainted with the story, I still found the back and forth of the film to be a bit tedious at times.
Further problems ensue with a cinematic style that departs considerably from the first film. In The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, director Niels Arden Oplev created a world that was dark and menacing, with a cinematic vibe that fit well with the material. In contrast, director Daniel Alfredson seemed to have a vision far less vivid, presenting a rather stark film that left me feeling as if I was watching a BBC series. It may seem unfair to compare the two directors, but such comparisons are needed with material that is so closely tied together. It felt as if a great deal of attention went into the making of the first film, with very little energy left for the second.
As for the actors, Roomi Rapace remains the perfect choice for the young, computer hacking Salander. Michael Nyqvist takes somewhat of a backseat role in this film, but remains solid as Blomkvist. A slew of new characters are introduced in the second film, most of them bad guys, ranging from the psychotic Zalachenko played by Georgi Staykov, and the equally psychotic Ronald Niedermann played by Mikael Spreitz. All bring the intended energy to the film, and are in fact, along with the storyline, what keeps this film afloat.
With all the success of the books (yes, I’ve read all three), my expectations were high for the second film. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was exactly what I expected from the Swedes (although Oplev is Danish), and it left me desperately wanting more. What I found after seeing The Girl That Played With Fire is that I’m not so keen on the third film. With Alfredson at the helm for the third, my hopes are that he will take a page from Niels Arden Oplev and create a world that is more befitting the characters that inhabit it.