THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE: The Film Babble Blog Review

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (Dir. Daniel Alfredson, 2009)

Right on the heels of the wildly successful theatrical run of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO comes this sequel, and before the end of this year the third (“The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”) in the Swedish series dubbed “The Millennium Trilogy” will be released.

You see, the Swedes don’t take 2-3 years between sequels – they strike when the iron is hot. Hollywood is trying to catch up with an English language version of the franchise directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig, but that’s way off so let’s just concentrate on the sequel at hand.

Though helmed by a different director (Alfredson takes over from Niels Arden Oplev) “The Girl Who Played With Fire” is roughly the same quality as its predecessor so if you thought “Dragon Tattoo” was a dark gripping experience well worth the time it took to get where it was going you’re likely to think that of the follow-up.

Michael Nyquist and the title’s namesake, Noomi Rapace, return in a scenario set a year after the events of “Dragon Tattoo”. The Millennium Magazine journalist Nyquist is investigating a sex-trafficking ring, separate from Rapace who is in hiding after being accused of three murders.

Nyquist believes she is innocent of the murders of a couple of his fellow journalists as well as Rapace’s guardian, Peter Andersson, who folks should remember from one of the most searing scenes in the first installment.

Utilizing wigs, a lavish secret apartment, and her incredible computer hacking skills, Rapace is able to avoid the police and gets the appropriate info to Nyquist, who tracks down some dangerous family history having to do with, yes, the girl in question actually playing with fire.

There’s a huge obstacle to both the protagonist’s paths – a towering henchman (Mikael Spreitz) described by boxer Paolo Roberto (in an odd cameo as himself) as a “blond tank.” Spreitz’s feel no pain presence brings to mind the likewise bruts James Bond battled in the ’60s (but then I did just re-watch FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE).

The pace plummets a few times with the film overestimating the chemistry of the central characters at crucial moments. Several times Nyquist is asked “what’s going on between you?” with no answer given. Despite not sharing any screen time until the very end there’s obviously an attraction that is supposed to be the crux of the biscuit, but perhaps it’s something that’s stronger felt in the books which haven’t left the top of the New York Times Bestseller list in months.

Obviously, having not read the late Stieg Larsson’s books I can’t comment on that, but I get the appeal of these people and their predicaments to a degree. Nyquist lives a more conventional life than the bisexual punk attired Rapace, yet he respects her ideals and vice versa. Somehow her spare never smiling acting style conveys this.

Rapace does give off a sly almost barely detectable smile at one point after violently overthrowing 2 biker baddies and stealing one of their motorcycles. It says it all: don’t even dream about trying to put girls with dragon tattoos who play with fire in a corner.

Swedish with English subtitles. Starts Friday, August 6th at the Colony Theater in North Raleigh. Check the theater’s website for showtimes.

More later…


(Dir. Niels Arden Oplev, 2009)

Now making its way through the states, this stylish Swedish thriller based on the bestselling novel by Stieg Larsson, was the top grossing European film of last year. With its effective and engrossing pacing, it’s easy to see why. Michael Nyqvist stars as a financial magazine reporter who accepts an intriguing job offer to investigate a 40 year old disappearance right after he loses a libel suit against a corrupt industrial magnate (Stefan Sauk).

The missing person is a young girl – the great niece of Henrik Vanger played by the contrite Sven-Bertil Taube, a wealthy businessman highly suspicious of the dark ties in his family to the Nazi party.

“Who do you suspect?” Nyqvist asks Taube on a walk through his island estate. “Nobody. And everybody. That’s where you come into the picture.” Taube replies in an appropriately hushed tone.

Meanwhile, the title’s namesake – a punk attired woman in her early 20’s, Noomi Rapace, has been hacking into Nyqvist’s computer doing her own parallel investigation. She is able to break down a code in the missing girl’s journal and she emails it to him. He tracks her down and before you know they are working together on the case – studying photographs, going through old records, and bit by bit piecing together the sordid murder puzzle that leads down more than one twisted path.

Rapace has a mysterious unspoken past involving crimes and mental institutions that have obviously toughened her up – her revenge against a sexually abusive appointed guardian (Peter Andersson) shows us this in disturbing detail. The elaborate dragon tattoo on her back isn’t really significant except as an identifier; indeed the film’s international title is MILLENIUM: PART I – MEN WHO HATE WOMEN.

Though the serial killer procedural threatens to drag the film down a bit, it’s tightly wound and crisply presented with gorgeous cinematography and a spare gently chilling soundtrack. Don’t expect a Swedish SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (it has a much higher plausibility factor as thrillers go) and don’t fret over subtitles – THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is great gripping, albeit a bit violent, cinema that deserves your attention.

More later…