The Girl Who Played with Fire

12 Dec

Title: The Girl Who Played with Fire
Daniel Alfredson
Jonas Frykberg based on the novel by Stieg Larsson
Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Peter Andersson, Per Oscarsson
MPAA Rating:
R, brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language
129 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:


The Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy novels have been a massive success worldwide, the bright-colored covers of the paperbacks taking the world by storm and everyone just eating up the story of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. Hollywood is already gearing up their adaptations, with David Fincher directing Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in the lead roles, and I’m sure that film will be as amazing as everything Mr. Fincher does. But Sweden, the native country of the novel’s author, has already done all three films. I saw the first one, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a while ago and gave it a A- grade and thought was just a pretty neat film overall, with an amazing breakthrough performance from Noomi Rapace, who since been cast in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes sequel.

Now, The Girl Who Played with Fire is still a very good film, but it’s not as good as the first one was. Ms. Rapace is still excellent as Lisbeth Salander, as is Michael Nyqvist in the role of Mikael Blomkvist, but the film as a whole isn’t as terrific as that first entry. Though, as sequels go, this is still a remarkable second entry in the franchise. And that’s because it keeps the raw power that made the first one so good in the first place, that’s intact, and considering Ms. Rapace is still as riveting in the leading role, then all’s good.

And that’s really the biggest thing this has going for it, the performances, and that’s why, no matter how talented a director Mr. Fincher may be, and he is, creating a Hollywood version that surpasses these Swedish ones won’t be an easy task at all. In this film we get a bit more insight into the character of Lisbeth, we get to discover a bit about her childhood, but she’s still a mystery to us. And Lisbeth is certainly one the best characters to come out of any media in years, she’s far from your average heroine, her power is her ability to hack into computers, her drive is her hatred towards men who commit violence to women.

These are very cool and powerful films, films in which the violence is very graphic and films that have respect for their awesome source material. And that’s because what’s so good about the novels is that they are very human, they connect the characters not to horrible stereotypes, which would have been the easy way out, but to actual human traits, which is why these work so well, because they’re people we could imagine doing things we could imagine them doing.

In this one we have Mikael still at it as a journalist, trying to get names and details of a women trafficking deal between Russia and Sweden. While Lisbeth has just returned to Stockholm, hot on the trails of a killer that will see her facing bits of her past she wishes she could avoid confronting again. And I won’t tire of talking about how great Ms. Rapace is here, she embodies Lisbeth so well, we feel her sense of alienation, how she has never needed anyone by her side, she totally owns this character, and I wish good luck to Ms. Mara in trying to emulate her.

There is stuff missing from the novel, that’s true, but what’s been taken out are just minor details and side stories that, while neat, would have probably made this film a bit too overstuffed. And it’s better this way, with just the basic core there for us to get to pay more attention to Lisbeth and her main mission. And that mission thickens as Lisbeth herself is accused of murder, and it’s up to her with the help of Mikael to free herself from these claims and get to the man who wants her out of the equation.

This is all told beautifully, not only are the lead performances pitch-perfect, Ms. Rapace being able to get deep down inside the psych of Lisbeth and bare it all out for our viewing pleasure, but this one also counts with a number of stellar supporting performances, which many times serve to give us a new glimpse into our leading characters. The violence is also still here, in lesser amounts and less shocking than in the first film, but just as effective.

The Girl Who Played with Fire may be a bit less than its predecessor was, but it’s still remarkable, and so far this trilogy is two for two in my book, and this one just left me desperately wanting to watch the third and final chapter of the story, and I’m guessing that one won’t disappoint, either.

Grade: B+


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