The Girl Who Played With Fire
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
Released fewer than six months after the resounding success of the first in the trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the second film kicks off where the first ended. Noomi Rapace returns as Lisbeth Salander, the computer hacker whose disturbed past comes back to haunt her. And by haunt, we mean try to murder most horribly.
Having lived a life of ease in the Cayman Islands for approximately one year, after procuring several million Kroner from the bank account of Hans-Erik Wennerström, a corrupt businessman introduced in the first novel, Salander returns to Sweden unannounced.
Moving her sparse belongings into a grand apartment in Stockholm, Salander, like all heroines before her, is not afforded much time to settle in, soon finding herself accused of a triple murder.
In a moment of literary coincidence, two of her supposed victims, a young aspiring journalist, Dag, and his girlfriend, Mia, were working on a huge exposé on sex trafficking, forcing Salander into making contact with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), whose journal, Millennium, was due to publish the damning report.
Joining forces once again with the investigative reporter, who never falters in his belief in his friend's innocence, Salander must work to clear her name and track down the real perpetrator, all the while evading a monstrous and apparently invincible assassin - although the less said the better about this bleach-blond-haired ogre, who is the saga's weakest and most ludicrous character.
Unlike the first, groundbreaking novel, which would have worked just as well as a stand-alone, The Girl Who Played With Fire, like the concluding chapter in the series, is convoluted in places. In the book itself, Stieg Larsson's conspiracy theories, for which the writer was well known, weigh down the otherwise well-paced action; the chapters on the Swedish government and political spies both wordy and imaterial to the plot.
As a result, even diehard fans of the novel should appreciate the fact that the director Daniel Alfredson deals with all these details from the book in a few lines of dialogue. But for all his efforts, the second film lacks the bite of the first. It goes without saying that Rapace is as dominating as ever in the role that made her a star, but the novelty of the atypical protagonist was always going to wear off, ever so slightly, after all the fuss surrounding her first screen appearance.
And despite the adulation heaped on the first adaptation - which is currently in the midst of a glossy Hollywood remake by the Oscar-nominated director David Fincher - The Girl Who Played With Fire was never intended for a cinematic release, receiving a far lower budget to work with, the results of which are evident on screen.
As the second part in the trilogy this film has a job to do: lead up to the explosive finale. Like any story trying to bridge a gap, it leaves several important questions unanswered, which may prove frustrating for viewers unaware of the full story.
As the saying goes, play with fire, and you will get burnt - albeit, in Rapace's second outing, only mildly.