In the Swedish-language series' second film, Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist reprise their roles as Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, upping the action quotient while discovering the literal and metaphorical repercussions that come of playing with fire.
Picking up roughly where The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo left off, cyber- hacking whiz Lisbeth has returned to Stockholm, and Mikael is working with Dag, a young journalist who is about to publish an article on sex trafficking that will implicate men in some of Sweden's highest offices. Lisbeth is drawn to the story, which she learned about by hacking Mikael's computer. Soon Lisbeth is accused of killing her court-appointed guardian, Nils, as well as Dag, his girlfriend. Lisbeth then goes on the run while Mikael tries to clear her name.
Although the first film's plot was rich and layered, The Girl Who Played with Fire falls flat. The story is intriguing, but doesn't reach its full potential, which is a bit disappointing with all of the revelations about Lisbeth's past. The mystery isn't as deep as the previous film, and it doesn't feel like it goes anywhere.
Where the film does succeed, however, is in the pacing. The last installment could be considered slow in parts and dragged on far too long, but Fire moves the story along more quickly, though it's still more than two hours long. This film is also more action packed, which could contribute to the faster pace. Many of the action sequences involve a big, blond tank of man who has a genetic condition that prevents him from feeling pain, which is troublesome for Lisbeth when she tries to tase him.
What I found interesting were the revelations made about Lisbeth's past. In the last film, we learned that Lisbeth has a guardian, a history of violence and had been in a mental institution as a young girl. Fire delves deeper into her past, setting the stage for the third and final chapter of the series. In this film we discover that when she was 12 years old she was declared incompetent by the state after she poured gasoline on her father while he was getting in a car and set him on fire - and that's where we get our title.
Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist is again sensational as the playboy journalist and confidant to Lisbeth. The two have a special relationship that's touching in that they know each other so well, and care for each other deeply, though the actual screen time they share is miniscule. It's intriguing to watch their parallel manhunts, and to see their interaction from afar. For example, on the television news, the anchor says Millenium was on the verge of publishing an article on computer security and hacking, which wasn't exactly the truth, but Mikael knew it would pique Lisbeth's interest and help lead him to her.
Noomi Rapace is phenomenal. She is by far the best feature of this film and the entire series. Lisbeth's words are few and far between, you could say she's the strong silent type, but a lack of dialogue is never a problem for the Swedish actress. Rapace's actions, mannerisms and facial expressions say it all when portraying the strong yet damaged and sensitive, computer-hacking badass. Rapace embodies Lisbeth in a way that we don't often see in Hollywood. And Rapace is so right for this role that it's hard to imagine anyone else playing Lisbeth in the forthcoming American remakes.
The Girl Who Played with Fire
Starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist. Directed by Daniel Alfredson