Written by Jonas Frykberg
Directed by Daniel Alfredson
Starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvyst
The second installment in the adaptations of Steig Larsson’s now internationally popular literary series, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, features sex trafficking, violent murder and people being buried alive but yet somehow it is a great deal less horrifying than the first film, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. A new writer and director came on for the second and third films and, while this caper is certainly more accessible, it is no less engaging and arguably a lot easier to enjoy and appreciate. I guess I would take dark family secrets over brutal rapes any day.
I do think THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO will remain the most memorable of the series (I’ve not seen the third film but so far, this is what I would expect) but as the novels are being read by more and more people, the release of THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE could not be better timed and it’s “lighter” tone will ensure less squeamish fans of the books will catch it too. It picks up a year or two after the first closed. The girl herself, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) looks softer somehow. The tattoo still covers her back as she gets out of bed but the dark makeup is toned down and the studded collar has been traded in for some silk sheets and a stunning Caribbean view. Lisbeth has definitely earned this break. Before long though, she must face the life she has been running from since she was 12.
Her family past catches up with her and before long, she is the main suspect in a triple homicide. Her loyal cohort, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvyst) knows her to be innocent and he makes it his personal mission to clear her name. Last time out, the two paired up to solve a decades old disappearance. They worked together on someone else’s case and grew to care for each other in a way neither one expected. This time, they are barely on screen together and they work alone yet in tandem on a case that involves them personally. Some have criticized this move, claiming that it comes off as more of a convenient excuse to continue on with these characters but I find making it about them makes sense. Lisbeth is a complicated character and it stands to reason that she would have a complicated and even more damaging past.
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE does lack the emotional resonance of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO but the shock factor couldn’t just go on forever. We know who Lisbeth Salander is on the outside; our prejudices were challenged by her character already. Now it is time to peel away the layers that have made her who she is. So far, the reveals have been intriguing and compelling. Now I definitely want to know what happens when the girl is going to go and kick the hornet’s nest.