Rating: 3 out of 5
I believe the last line in my review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was, “If the sequels are half as gripping as this movie, I eagerly await their releases here.” I might have jinxed it for myself a tad because that’s exactly what The Girl Who Played with Fire was – half as gripping.
The Girl Who Played with Fire is the underappreciated middle child of the Millenium trilogy (originally penned as novels by the late Stieg Larsson) and as middle chapters often go, they’re burdened with a certain anti-climatic feel. They never retain the freshness of the beginning and can never duplicate the urgency of the ending.
Notwithstanding, this second instalment is still a very solid though unspectacular effort, keeping you engaged and entertained as new mysteries unfold and old demons begin to haunt our crusading investigators.
The film opens with Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) returning to Sweden a wealthy woman after successfully skimming off the fat bank accounts of the previous movie’s villains. As Lisbeth tries to settle into anonymity in her new digs, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), her partner in (solving) crime from the first film is onto a new story for Millennium magazine.
Mikael is investigating a seedy Eastern European sex-trafficking syndicate which just so happens to count many prominent Swedish officials as clients. As the expose nears publication, a string of murders (including that of a Millennium reporter and researcher) brings the scoop to a halt. All evidence points to Lisbeth Salander as the culprit but after everything they’ve been through together, Mikael obviously knows better.
With determined police and dangerous gangsters hunting her down, both of them independently and desperately try to solve the intertwining puzzles of Lisbeth’s framing and what it has to do with an underground prostitution ring before it’s too late.
While The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo focused primarily on Mikael’s struggles this movie shifts its attention entirely onto enigmatic Lisbeth. Her tragically depraved back-story together with her current circumstances just adds fuel to Lisbeth’s fire. As a character perpetually victimised or under siege, a character study into her survival mentality is entirely fascinating.
Noomi Rapace takes her turn at being the lead with glee as she is even more mesmerizing this time around. There’s a certain gutsy brashness her punk aesthetic but Rapace sows in a layers upon layers of vulnerability and latent anguish that just adds so much more to Lisbeth’s caged animal demeanour.
Maybe I’m a just sucker for hard-boiled noirs because despite a noticeable drop-off in quality and an abrupt ending, I still found The Girl Who Played with Fire plenty worthwhile.
The slight erosion in intensity might be due to a change of screenwriter and director between films - but that only minimally detracts from the magnetism of the Lisbeth Salander character or the magnificence of Noomi Rapace’s performance.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.