Film Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire


The second installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire ups the pace from the first film, creating for the most part a more immediately engrossing thriller, but one with more flaws than its predecessor.

Journalist Mikael is investigating a sex-trafficking ring when three people connected with the case are murdered. Computer hacker Lisbeth is accused of the murders and, with Mikael’s help, must clear her name by finding the real culprit…

The main drawback with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was that it took too long to really get going. The Girl Who Played with Fire doesn’t suffer with this affliction, and is more instantly engaging because of this. Furthermore, some of the mysteries of Lisbeth’s past (introduced in the first film) are revealed in this installment, making it more satisfying to this end.

With much of the character development taking place in the first installment, director Daniel Alfredson is free to concentrate on the action of the case itself. It is just a shame that the mystery in this film isn’t as interesting as the case in the first film. The missing teen and the family empire of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo presented a more fascinating series of events than this case of a trafficking ring, which is never really investigated in any depth. Instead, the plot shifts to clearing the name of Lisbeth, which entails more action but less investigation.

The Girl Who Played with Fire presents a very clear depiction of women as victims and the perpetrators of crimes as solely male. Whilst Lisbeth may not be a typical heroine, she appears to fit in with the other main female characters in that she is a victim of violence. This rather primitive representation of genders detracts from the mystery aspect of the crimes, in both installments of the trilogy.

As with the first film, The Girl Who Played with Fire builds the tension to the climactic sequence. Although the climax is exciting, it also lacks credibility. Whilst the film has an overall basis in reality, events in the final scenes betray this with an absence of believability.

Casting for the American adaptation of Larsson’s books has recently been announced. It will be interesting to see how closely they resemble this Swedish attempt.


Film Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo


When a film actually feels long, it’s never a good sign. The problem with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is that it takes far too long to build momentum. It is only in the second third of the film that pace is generated; prior to this there is exposition and little else.

The film centres around the mystery of a missing young girl, disappeared decades before from her wealthy family. What distinguishes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo most from others in the murder mystery mould is the explicitness in not only the crimes that are discovered, but also in the violence that is depicted. At times, the graphic nature of the violence and sadism on display is difficult to watch. Unlike movies such as Saw, which seems to function on the ‘gore for entertainment’ premise, it is hard to see what is gained from such graphic scenes. Murder mystery for the Hostel generation perhaps.

The selling point of the books and this subsequent film appears to be the central character of Lisbeth. With her shadowy background and non-conformist appearance, Lisbeth is a researcher and hacker who is drawn into the case after completing research on reporter Michael Blomkvist, who is originally tasked with the case.  With her piercings and tattoos, Lisbeth may seem a world away from Miss Marple, yet there is little more to her beyond this outsider persona.

The film is the first instalment of a trilogy, so presumably more will be revealed about Lisbeth and her background. The ending of this film, however, feels protracted; it goes on at least fifteen minutes longer than what appears to be a logical conclusion.  Whilst the next two films may pick up the pace, it is questionable how many viewers will return after this mediocre start.