Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire [Flickan som lekte med elden] (2009)
Daniel Alfredson's The Girl Who Played with Fire is a very good follow-up to a great beginning for Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy books, Niels Arden Oplev's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The cast have returned, most notably Michael Nyqvist as Millennium magazine editor/investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the stunning Noomi Rapace as abused-by-the-system hacker Lisbeth Salander. Director Alfredson is the brother of Tomas Alfredson, director of the awesome vampire film Let the Right One In, remade in an American version for this year as Let Me In.
This second film pretty well picks up where the last left off, about a year later. But Lisbeth, after a brief respite from "guardianship" in Sweden, still has quite a few loose ends to tie up in her life which were only hinted at in the first film.
Meanwhile, Mikael Blomqvist is checking up on Lisbeth periodically, though he has not been able to find her, apparently, since the end of the last film's events. His magazine is also vetting a series of stories about corruption in all levels of Swedish government which involves him with a young journalist and his girlfriend who are passionately committed to the story.
Also returning is Peter Andersson as Nils Bjurman, the evillest, slimiest person in the world, who has the misfortune to keep getting his hands dirty bothering Lisbeth, among other not-very-smart criminal involvements. It's hard to even want to praise the actor who plays such a man, but Andersson is effective. His character is a believable holdover from the first film, as well, and works here.
New characters who appear feel organic, and include Micke Spreitz as a mysterious blond giant with a medical condition so winningly named that I'll leave that for now and let you hear about it yourself, Yasmine Garbi as Miriam Wu, a sometime girlfriend and kickboxing mate of Lisbeth's, and, very good as Lisbeth's and Miriam's kickboxing mentor, Paolo Roberto, kickboxing mentor Paolo Roberto.
This movie uses clips, or recreated scenes, from the plot of the first film, in useful if not ingenious ways. They fit in pretty well despite a slight shift in tone between the two movies. They might be slightly overdone in places, but generally serve their purpose for this film's story.
While this film uses the visual palette of the first film effectively, the framing, editing and rhythm are all markedly different. This does not produce a clash, but feels like necessary or at least natural progress for a slightly different type of story. This film is much less meditative and longer on action and dramatic, violent conflict.
Also, without spoilers, but just to whet your whistle, there are several views of the famous dragon tattoo, fight and chase scenes, secrets revealed about Lisbeth's past, classic motorcycle jackets, misplaced fingerprints, "the lottery trick," blackmail, guns and tasers, atavistic face-painting, paparazzi, kimonos and more. Writing this paragraph makes even me want to see it again; I've seen it twice.
The Girl Who Played with Fire does have the disadvantage of following a very great first film, and it does suffer mildly by comparison. Pulpier, slightly less persuasive, it's a solid entry in what can reasonably be hoped to be a solid trilogy. The final film, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, was also directed by Daniel Alfredson. I'm working on reading the books, probably soon, maybe not before I see the final film.
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