Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"the girl who played with fire" ("flickan som lekte med elden") movie review

I caught the “Girl Who Played with Fire” ("Flickan Som Lekte Med Elden") last week, before we drove up to Vermont. It’s the second installment of Stieg Larrson’s posthumously published “Millennium” trilogy. Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyquist reprise their roles as Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." In fact, all three books of the “Millennium” trilogy were filmed in one year, with the same principal actors. The third instalment, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” is scheduled for an October release.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was a brutally violent film, and the level of violence did not abated in “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” With scenes of a who girl dragged into a barn followed by a man who then powers up a chain saw, a girl shot and then buried alive, and flashbacks to the brutal rape in “Dragon Tattoo,” the sequel may contain even more violence! Certainly Lisbeth’s path through this movie is no less violent than what she endured in the first.

“The Girl Who Played with Fire” fills in the details of Lisbeth’s past for those who watched the first film. Interestingly, the fire motif picked up from the first film (the flashback where Lisbeth douses her abusive father and lights a match to him) and carried over to the cyborg-like evil henchman’s torching of the barn to, supposedly, dispose of two inconvenient bodies.

While this character feels no pain as a result of a genetic mutation, he doesn’t lapse into a comic cut-out of a clownish James Bond bad guy from the 60's or 70's (think Jaws, without the smile). He does the dirty work with clinical detachment and ruthlessness. His connection to the action is murkier than it appears, and the big reveal at the finish certainly opens some eyes.

The plot revolved around the murder of an investigative reporter and his wife, who both uncover a human traffic network and Blomkvist’s Millennium magazine is about to publish all the gory details. They’re killed before the expose is published - and Lisbeth is framed for the murders. This frame-up, while improbable, is essential and brings her back into the sleuthing business - to save herself. As she tries to find the real murderer, her past becomes part of the present day story.

Interestingly, while Blomkvist is certain of her innocence - and sets off to prove it - they don’t meet up until late in the film. Given the evidence the police have against her (including an inconvenient fingerprint), his unwavering belief that she couldn't have murdered them may have more to do with their physical relationship from “Dragon Tattoo” than any objective set of facts in the current film.

The trilogy will be remade in the U.S. - with Daniel Craig signed to play Blomkvist. The open question is what actress can play Lisbeth? Noomi Rapace inhabits the role so completely that's it's difficult to image another woman in the part. In the meantime, if you haven't seen "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," watch that one first. Then go see the "Girl Who Played with Fire."

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