Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, has made his living exposing the crooked and corrupt practices of establishment Swedish figures. So when a young journalist approaches him with a meticulously researched thesis about sex trafficking in Sweden and those in high office who abuse underage girls, Blomkvist immediately throws himself into the investigation.
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The Girl who Played with Fire âï¿½ï¿½ Movie Review
-by BEV QUESTAD-
Better than the book because Noomi Rapace breaks the glass ceiling
Itâï¿½ï¿½s not every day that a film is as good as or even better than a great book. Daniel Alfredson, director, and Jonas Frykberg, screenwriter, have accomplished a surprise. Despite being made for European TV, despite its lack of theme development and despite its sensationalism of Lisbethâï¿½ï¿½s sex rendezvous, âï¿½ï¿½The Girl who Played with Fireâï¿½ï¿½ film is excellent.
Stieg Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s book version of this second part of the Millennium Trilogy would receive a realistic book rating of 4 out of 5 because of the difficulty in following and completely understanding all the plots that webbed out from the driving action. The close to 1,000 page book is so anxious to mirror its themes of control and dominance that some of its subplots, like governmental corruption, got a little confusing.
Revolutionary Female Force
Audiences world-wide were sold on the first film, âï¿½ï¿½The Girl with the Dragon Tattooâï¿½ï¿½ because Lisbeth Salander, played by Noomi Rapace, despite being beaten down repeatedly, gets back up with greater strength each time. The attempts to destroy her only serve to strengthen her resolve.
Lisbeth is the 2010 female icon, eclipsing the classic Superman, Skywalker and Ring Trilogy heroes with realistic depth, angst and suffering. Following the classic stages of Josephâï¿½ï¿½s Campbellâï¿½ï¿½s universal journey of the hero, Lisbeth Salander inspires and mesmerizes the viewer. Despite her nightmare childhood and seemingly insurmountable challenges, through cunning, strength, and personal talents, Lisbeth always rebounds with greater cleverness and strength to overcome.
In book/film 2, âï¿½ï¿½The Girl who Played with Fire,âï¿½ï¿½ this resilience is tested further, and that becomes the focus of the film more than any theme or universal message.
Jonas Frykberg, the screenwriter, was able to cut through all the extraneous subplots of Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s winding tale, stick to the major action and deliver a suspenseful thriller that rivets the viewer. Noomi Rapaceâï¿½ï¿½s strong screen presence, with her dark piercing eyes and small, unsmiling, often silent mouth command the viewerâï¿½ï¿½s allegiance and awe.
It is through this character development that Rapace, nailing the spirit of Stieg Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s somewhat androgynous character, honors both the book and the greater purpose of Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s work in bringing to focus a revolutionary female force.
Why not 5 out of 5?
It all has to do with theme development. While the book version of âï¿½ï¿½Fireâï¿½ï¿½ gets overly detailed in additional and sometimes not fully explained plot details, particularly the government corruption angle (not covered much in the film), the movie only focuses on the literal plot and not the great Larsson themes. This is unfortunate.
Perhaps the third installment of the Millennium Trilogy will round up all the loose ends and slam-dunk Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s greater theme and purpose. But âï¿½ï¿½Fireâï¿½ï¿½ does not significantly follow up or develop the fundamental themes in âï¿½ï¿½Tattooâï¿½ï¿½ to make it strong enough as a stand-alone movie or a great, life-changing cinematic experience.
At the core of Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s work is his perception of the basis for human failure. Leave it to the Scandinavians, home of Edvard Munchâï¿½ï¿½s âï¿½ï¿½The Scream,âï¿½ï¿½ to lift up the rock to reveal a slimy, creepy, dark reality. His lifeâï¿½ï¿½s work revolved around manâï¿½ï¿½s inhumanity to man and primitive, instinctual drive to survive through power and control.
Development of physical strength has its most obvious benefits and the most obvious recipient would be those who were outwardly physically weaker. This is the origin of the male/female conflict that Larsson examines through a multi-faceted prism in his trilogy. It is through this drive to dominate and control that Larsson exposes the roots of bias and prejudice that end up manifested in a tangled web of corruption and destruction in current society.
What is interesting and ultimately so universally appealing about his protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, is that Larsson takes this concept of dominance and control in new instructive directions. Omitted from the film are allusions to Lisbethâï¿½ï¿½s interest in advanced math and her phenomenal success with chess, showing Lisbethâï¿½ï¿½s own attraction to dominance and control of the playing field.
And this control is what Lisbeth, an early victim of violence, is determined to never lose again.
Larssonâï¿½ï¿½s instructive, ironic homily on a deeper level, is that when men take away a womanâï¿½ï¿½s access to choices, to control, there is a reciprocal self-destructive karma for the perpetrator.
The Bottom Line
Yes, the film follows a simplified slice of the book action, and it does it very well, despite having a different director and screenwriter than âï¿½ï¿½Tattoo.âï¿½ï¿½ The production is professional, fast-paced, and gripping. In addition, book club members world-wide have reported that reading both âï¿½ï¿½Tattooâï¿½ï¿½ and âï¿½ï¿½Fireâï¿½ï¿½ beforehand enhanced their viewing of the movie, so be warned.
Whatever the case, donâï¿½ï¿½t see this film without seeing âï¿½ï¿½The Girl with the Dragon Tattooâï¿½ï¿½ (now available on DVD) first, and if you have the time and ability, read each book before seeing each film. Larsson is a detailed writer whose webbed plots and theme development dramatically enhance these fine productions.
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Writers: Jonas Frykberg (screenplay) Stieg Larsson (novel)
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Mikael Nygvist and Lena Endre
Language: Swedish with English subtitles
European Release: September, 2009
UK Release: August 27, 2010
US Release: July 2, 2010 in 7 theatres in NYC and Chicago.
July 9 âï¿½ï¿½ 16, at selected theatres: -soon/the-girl-who-played-with-fire/