titlegirlplayedfire copy

The Girl Who Played With Fire is the follow up to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and is the second part of Steig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. It picks up from the point where we leave the first novel and sticks faithfully to the book as does the first version. This makes it accessible for those who have not read the trilogies.

The focus is on one of the main characters, a formidable, nose-pierced, tattooed, chain-smoking young woman, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), who has a very dark past. In this case she has been accused of a triple-murder and together, but working separately with her friend, the Millennium journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), they are caught up in a web of intrigue, which makes for an entertaining couple of hours as they attempt to prove Lisbeth’s innocence.

The lead characters are very charismatic. This is not Hollywood, but Sweden, where the focus is not on movie star looks, but more on performance. And, it shows. There is a real sense of realism in this portrayal of a situation that is quite horrific. Lisbeth is a force to be reckoned with, living in a world that seems to be dominated by vile men who have a total disregard for women and treat them like dirt. At one point, Lisbeth, who appears to be incapable of forming any close ties, is also accused of treating her friends like dirt and there is plenty of it.

During the only moment of intimacy, when she meets up with an old girlfriend, Mariam Wu (Yasmine Garbi), the camera focuses on her shoulders which reveal a young woman who seems devoid of all emotion and yet is extremely fragile. This is in stark contrast to the same girl who is able to bring down her enemies and ride off on their prized Harley with a wry smile on her face. Some viewers may respond with a few cheers after that scene.

This film version simply shows how, when a book is adapted well for the screen, it works. It is a complicated story which leaves little out and challenges its audience to go along for the ride which at times gets pretty nasty. It is interesting to note that such a strong stance for womanhood was penned from a male perspective. This is not surprising given that Larsson was a journalist who was an expert on anti-democratic, right wing extremism.

There is a guaranteed audience for this film as there was for the first in the trilogy and this one does not disappoint. The villains are tough and scary and the semi-bleak environment adds to the story’s atmosphere. The performances are all excellent and the tension is kept at a very high level. You are left wanting more. Hopefully part three is not too far off.


titlegirlplayedfire copy

Part two of the original, Swedish Millennium trilogy picks up where The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo left off. Reporter Mickael Blomkvist is back working on the magazine when two of his colleagues are murdered, most likely because of a report investigating human trafficking through Eastern Europe. What really catches Blomkvist's attention is a third murder; fingerprints on the weapon belong to his friend, Lisbeth Salandar.

Prior knowledge of the series, or the books on which it's based, is not essential to follow the complex plotting; although paying attention certainly is. Motivation is another matter and as some of the questions left from the first instalment are answered, what was once murky becomes deliciously clear. Not surprisingly, The Girl Who Played With Fire is not as simple as the set up suggests, with more and more strings teased out into a commendable, intricate thriller involving short, sharp jabs of extreme violence.

Director Daniel Alfredson takes over the reigns from Neils Oplev and keeps the film in step with its predecessor, maintaining the SBS sensibility that does not challenge cinematic convention. While that has its place, it's hardly innovative. Likewise Nyqvist and Rapace are solid yet not spectacular as they reprise their roles. This is much more about narrative page-turning than anything else and at that level, The Girl Who Played With Fire which throws subtly but clearly to third act, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest, turns them admirably.

moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks