Movie Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire- An Almost Equally Thrilling Adaptation Sequel of Stieg Larrson’s Intriguing Neo-Noir Series

Who knew that when an author dies unexpectedly their literary work that was never appreciated when they were living suddenly bursts in popularity? This is the case with Stieg Larrson’s book series that began with the exquisite first installment entitled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The first book was adapted into an intriguing cinematic Swedish feature and released earlier this year and the same cast returns in an almost equally thrilling sequel based on the second novel entitled The Girl Who Played with Fire. Almost equal describes it well because this adaptation of Larrson’s book uses a bit more gritty action than say the raw realism that first shocked us in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. However, the quality elements that come together to make a gripping thriller and neo-noir are all exploited here with great style, character, and delicate plot development with director Daniel Alfredson at the helm. Alfredson remains consistent with the first adaptation’s style but also gives us some fight sequences, a car chase, and even some shocking imagery that makes this Swedish series so uncomfortably mesmerizing. Though all of the returning actors are exceptional the film does fall behind without the personal interactions between the characters of Mikael and Lisbeth, since they are never on the screen together basically throughout the entire film. But as a middle story arc to a trilogy The Girl Who Played with Fire is a gripping thriller and expands upon the mysterious character Lisbeth in a way of understanding her deeper flaws and femme fatale personality.

The Girl Who Played with Fire begins with the fact that Mikael and Lisbeth are estranged from each other a year or so after their first investigative collaboration. Lisbeth is traveling the globe in an effort to escape her nightmares and fear of connection with Mikael. Mikael is continuing is investigative journalism at his widely known magazine Millennium with a new writer’s passion to uncover the underground sex trafficking ring in Sweden. The new writer and his girlfriend are eventually murdered for digging into the wrong places and the wrong people, and Lisbeth ends up being framed with the crime. Now it’s up to Mikael to try and find out the truth as he ventures deeper into the crimes and the illegal sex trafficking scandal, while Lisbeth is always one step ahead of him in trying to clear her name. It really is masterful thriller filmmaking when the story gives you subtle hints as to the answer to the riddle as well as giving you the occasional slight of hand techniques that make you question your already established perceptions. The Girl Who Played with Fire continues the neo-noir investigative subtleties that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo embraced, which makes these films a great narrative tool to utilize the best of Hitchcock’s strength in mystery as well as David Lynch’s rawness. While the ending suffers from being the middle story arc to a completed piece leaving you with an uncomfortable sense of ambiguity, it still doesn’t take away from the exceptional investigative work that connects all of the webs twists and turns.

At the same time The Girl Who Played with Fire is a thrilling neo-noir it is also a revealing piece into the previously mysterious character that is Lisbeth, played delicately by Noomi Rapace. There was always intensity to Rapace’s acting in The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo but in the sequel the story tries to reveal a great deal about her psyche and emotional frailty that contradicts her hard and callous exterior. Using her eyes to reveal her emotions, Rapace brings Lisbeth to a more delicate place for her character. She is mesmerizing to watch and carries a great deal of the film on her own due to her unstable yet relatable degrees of emotion. The other half of the film is solely carried by Michael Nyqvist as the dedicated journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who doesn’t have as much to do in this installment as he did in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but certainly makes his parts interesting. Nyqvist’s gives the character Mikael some intriguing facial features that reveal a great deal of caring and worry for his estranged partner Lisbeth. Mikael’s stubbornness turns into an obsession to clearing Lisbeth’s name and the suspense of not knowing if he’ll catch up to her lead on the investigation as it gets more dangerous makes for a great focus for the other half of the film. Witnessing Lisbeth’s unconventional ways of finding information and Mikael’s dedication to strict journalism also makes for a revealing aspect of both their characters and how finding out the information when time is running against you certainly makes the particular use of tactics extremely important.

Certainly as book adaptations go The Girl Who Played with Fire is not nearly as detailed as the book, but the tone and the essential elements to knowing what is going on is definitely embraced in Jonas Frykberg’s script. Frykberg and Alfredson try to replicate that rawness that was in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but falls a bit short in their delivery that is clearly focused on more action than unsettling imagery. But the action isn’t your typical Hollywood display of special effects. Rather it is a rare use of physical and stunt coordinated action that makes the gritty shots seem more realistic though they also feel copied from the Bourne trilogy. Still the film doesn’t suffer as a thriller because of it but just isn’t at the same level of unsettling intrigue that its predecessor was able to ignite in its audiences. The way this film series has been able to build tension and mystery with the great tool of subtlety and our dedication to characters makes it a great representation as to what should go into building a great thriller.

As sequels go The Girl Who Played with Fire stands as a great continuation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in being an equally promising thriller. However, in comparison to the first installment the film does fall short in expectation as to the shocking realism and unsettling scenarios the first embraced. Instead we are given some notably exciting action sequences and a deeper journey into the psyche of one of the more mysterious characters in the series: Lisbeth Salander. The film’s ending will certainly leave you with a haunting sense of vagueness perhaps in the hopes of intriguing you to return for the third and final chapter of the series. While it isn’t as strong as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire does use a great thriller tool of exposing as little to you as possible creating an unnerving and suspenseful narrative display. Again it has to be said that the use of subtlety and never stating to your audience what exactly is going on can be a great way of bringing the audience further into the mystery making a great theater experience despite the film’s more mainstream approach to the Swedish thriller series.

Grade: B+

2 Responses to “Movie Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire- An Almost Equally Thrilling Adaptation Sequel of Stieg Larrson’s Intriguing Neo-Noir Series”
  1. shitschke. says:

    omq i luv dis muvi suh much!!!! \

  2. shitschke. says:

    aaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmmggggggggggg. jizz over this.

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