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The Girl Who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) (2010) **1/2

July 11, 2010

Written by: Jonas Frykberg (screenplay) and Stieg Larsson (novel)

Produced by: Lone Korslund and Peter Nadermann

Drected by: Daniel Alfredson

Rated R for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language

129 mins

U.S. Release Date: July 9, 2010 (limited)

Only a few months after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo released in the U.S., the second installment, The Girl Who Played with Fire, continues the story of Lisbeth Salander and the Millennium magazine staff.  In this film, they all work to piece together a complex string of murders that has left Lisbeth as the prime suspect.  In the case with many “middle movies” (in case you didn’t know, this is a series of three), there is always a little bit of a lull, as the story arch is simply taking us from the introduction to the grand finale, with some character development peppered in to get audiences more familiar with the main characters.  This common symptom of many second-of-three films is not necessarily a bad thing, but a natural occurrence based on writers and filmmakers setting the stage for the hopefully fulfilling final installment.  Does this film suffer from the same second-film dip, as most do, or does it stand up on its own?

Since her last “adventure” with Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) in the first film, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has been traveling the world and spending time away from her problems.  When the films begins, she is relaxing in the Caribbean.  She occasionally hacks into the computer her old guardian, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson), to read his email, check on who he is talking to, and to make sure he is sending in perfectly kind reports about her every month.  One day, Lisbeth sees that Bjurman plans on getting his infamous tattoo removed (see the first film), which she does not like at all,  so she heads back to Stockholm to keep a close eye on her guardian.

Upon returning, the girl with the dragon tattoo has quite a run-in with Bjurman, which ends in Lisbeth threatening him with his own gun.  Within a few days, two investigative journalists and Bjurman are all found murdered around Stockholm.  The murder weapon was Bjurman’s handgun that Lisbeth had used to threaten him just days before.  Lisbeth’s fingerprints were on the gun, so she instantly becomes the most wanted person in Sweden.

Meanwhile, Blomkvist is working hard over at Millennium magazine to figure out who is at the bottom of these murders, because he believes her to be innocent.  As the film goes on, both Lisbeth and Mikael work desperately to uncover a group of mysterious criminals that carry quite a bit of surprises of their own.

As expected, the characters were very well-acted, specifically in the case of Noomi Rapace in the role of Lisbeth Salander.  There is a lot of darkness and complexity to the character of Lisbeth, and Rapace seems frighteningly at home in the role.  Michael Nyqvist plays the part of Blomkvist very well, and adds more depth into the character throughout this second film.

In terms of filmmaking, the aesthetics and various components of the process, The Girl Who Played with Fire is right on point with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  This installment carries the same tone that I came to expect based on the prior film.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this film carries quite the same punch.  There were so many instances of characters’ actions not being explained, or scene sequences feeling very rushed. This installment did not seem quite as much of a complete film as the first.

After leaving the film and reading up on the plot points of the second Millennium book, a lot more made sense about why certain characters did certain things on the screen.  It wasn’t an impossible movie to follow by any stretch, but at second thought, there are some minor plot holes that translate to an overall less fulfilling experience than its predecessor.

Overall, this is not a bad movie by any means.  The first one is entrancing and pulls audiences into this world’s underbelly to meet a whole new type of character.  The second is more of the same, with a few painful symptoms of adaptation from a much-too-long novel.  If you are a fan of the first film, you definitely need to see this one.  Just know that it is setting the stage for a grand third installment (already out in a few European countries).  If you have not yet experienced the Millennium series of books or films, I suggest watching the movies first, as you’ll have an illuminating experience later getting further depth through the novels.

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