Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Running Time: 129 mins
The Girl Who Played With Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) is a Swedish film and the sequel to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Having returned from a year out of the country, Lisbeth Salander finds herself at the centre of a major murder investigation, while Mikael Blomkvist does everything he can to find her before the authorities do.
While I wasn’t completely blown away by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, it felt fresh enough to stand out among the mystery thriller genre, but that’s not something that its first sequel manages to do quite so well. Although once again an engaging watch, this second story fails to capture the deeper intensity that made the first so riveting at times, while a different directing style from Daniel Alfredson unfortunately takes away a lot of the high stakes and intense grit of the first film, further diminishing the power of what could have been a far more enthralling watch.
But before I get into that, let’s talk about what this film does right. I was impressed with the amount of character depth developed over the course of the first movie, and that’s something that comes good throughout the sequel, as we see Lisbeth Salander’s past become more and more exposed, and more of the darker traces of her life coming back to haunt her.
In that, there is a good deal of drama throughout, and the clearly personal nature of the story that unfolds makes for an engaging watch, as we see Salander put into positions that we didn’t see in the first film, and with the immense unpredictability of her character, there is ample opportunity for thrills and unexpected twists throughout, something I found fully enthralling to watch.
Unlike the first film, this sequel centres on a crime that’s a little more interlinked with the main characters. Now, in part, that’s a positive, because it lends a new level of emotion to the investigation, although it’s also somewhat of a downside, as the movie then gets a little too caught up in teasing twists and drama (in rather blatant fashion) relating to Salander’s past, rather than further deepening our intrigue and connection with her as a main character.
And that’s where one of my biggest problems with The Girl Who Played With Fire comes in. It’s an extension of the character arc we saw established in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but there’s not all that much more to learn about the characters themselves, with the development taking somewhat of a linear arc throughout, and not pausing to further deepen its analysis of Salander, who is clearly a character filled with fascinating and powerful drama.
What’s more is that Mikael Blomkvist is disappointingly relegated to a more basic investigator. Last time out, his character had an interesting ambiguity that stemmed from his own legal troubles before the investigation began, while his direct relationship with Lisbeth Salander, and their strong contrasts, made him just as riveting a character. Here, however, he doesn’t have all that much to do, but rather follow a series of clues just to find Salander, with the screenplay neglecting to further your knowledge about him individually as well.
And finally, I felt that the change of director here is something that contributes to the film’s seeming lower intensity and intrigue. While the story comes from the same author, there’s something about Daniel Alfredson’s directing that makes everything here seem a little too simple, and a little too clear-cut.
Unlike the first film, which had some stunning moments of truly bleak and harrowing darkness, Alfredson undoes that intensity with a style that sees a far more generic approach to the thriller formula take precedence, without those breathtaking pauses to fall to some very dark but powerful depths, but instead a more plain and less exhilarating path to the end.
Overall, then, I found The Girl Who Played With Fire an interesting watch, with some engaging new elements that set it apart from the first film, but it mostly represents a rather large step down from its riveting predecessor, failing to capture the same dramatic intensity and darkness, as well as missing out on what really made the first film so fascinating, with less character depth and analysis than was definitely needed, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.1.