by KYW’s Bill Wine
To say that this second offering of the Millenium trilogy isn’t quite up to the standards set by the first one is certainly not to denigrate it.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, its predecessor, released here earlier this year, was a mesmerizing, brilliantly suspenseful thriller.
The followup, The Girl Who Played with Fire, doesn’t disarm and surprise us in the way that installment number one did, but it’s still an arresting continuation of the gripping story, another visit with two indelible characters, and a tantalizing bridge to cross as we look forward eagerly to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, the third episode in the trilogy.
Like its predecessor, Fire uses the noir-thriller style to examine social injustice, especially manifested in the cruelty men can display toward women in Swedish society. It picks up the story about a year after the events of the first film.
Noomi Rapace (above) returns as tough, resourceful, martial-arts-trained, tattooed-and-pierced computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, as does Michael Nyqvist as inquisitive, perceptive, and compassionate investigative journalist Michael Blomkvist.
Working together in their first truth-uncovering adventure (in Tattoo), they solved a decades-old crime while gaining revenge for sadistic crimes committed against her and restoring his professional reputation.
When the two authors of editor-in-chief Nyqvist’s Millennium Magazine article exposing widespread sex trafficking are murdered and Lisbeth’s fingerprints are found on the murder weapon, the police assume that she’s guilty. So she and Michael investigate individually as their paths through the labyrinthine entanglements once again converge.
And, as the case unfolds, we come to know more and more about Lisbeth’s tragic past.
Daniel Alfredson takes the directorial reins from Niels Arden Oplev and works from a screenplay by Jonas Frykberg (Alfredson and Frykberg collaborated on the third film as well), adapted from the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s international best-seller. It’s not as intense as the preceding installment, but it remains literate and edgy and irresistibly involving.
It should also be said that although Fire certainly gets by as a standalone drama, your viewing experience will be greatly enriched if you’ve seen Tattoo.
Will there be an American remake of at least one if not all three of these thrillers from Sweden? Apparently so. But why choose between them and wait?
Subtitles will not keep you from becoming completely engrossed — and the casting and acting are a bit part of the reason why. The performances are first-rate from the large roles through the small, but it’s the leads — once again — who have us by the lapels throughout.
Nyqvist is a solid, sensitive actor who keeps us glued and focused on his reactions with knowing, subtle glances and minimal movement. But it’s Ms. Rapace who is electrifying and unforgettable in a role that’s as original as it is compelling as it is surprising as it is touching — and she has reportedly already turned down an offer to reprise her role in the American version.
She’s already won awards for her startling performance as Lisbeth Salander in Europe. Even though it’s only July, she certainly deserves at least an Oscar nomination. The foreign-language element notwithstanding, it’s unimaginable that we would have five performances by actresses in this calendar year that eclipse her work in this role.
Which is part of the reason why we’ll hack into 3 stars out of 4 for the gripping in-between revenge thriller, The Girl Who Played with Fire. Details of the plot may slip away but, as title characters go, this one’s unforgettable.