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Movie Review: THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE

Submitted by on July 9, 2010 – 11:11 pm 5 Comments

I loved this book, thought it was better than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because there was no opening exposition; it just hit the ground running. Since the Tattoo movie blew my pants off, I was expecting big things for the Fire adaptation.

Hate to say it—I was a little disappointed. Though the story remained mostly faithful to Stieg Larsson’s novel, which moved like a flame on a trail of gasoline, the movie’s pacing was oddly plodding. It’s as if some scenes were held a beat too long when a quicker cutaway was needed to maintain the urgency of the situation. After seeing it, I remembered reading last year that this movie and the next, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, had been intended for TV, which explains the rhythm and by-the-book procedural feel. Some scenes were probably meant to fade out into commercials while others were intended to come back from them. This impeded the movie’s overall momentum.

It probably didn’t help that there’s a lot of ground to cover here. After Lisbeth becomes the number one suspect in three brutal murders, she goes on the run while Blomkvist tries to find her and clear her name, unearthing secrets about her past, including why she was committed to an asylum when she was twelve. Whereas the revelations are shocking in the book, they lose their punch when disclosed via long, static conversations between characters. Since cinema is a visual medium, I wish director Daniel Alfredson (taking over from Niels Arden Oplev) had found a way to show, not tell.

But it’s not all bad because the electrifying Noomi Rapace returns as Lisbeth Salander and truly, there’s no one better for this role. Lisbeth experiences hell and Rapace goes there. Her performance is devoid of vanity; she does whatever it takes to bring Lisbeth to life. There’s a long stretch when she doesn’t talk but you can read all her thoughts through her eyes, a sign of a smart actress. Lisbeth is softer this time around; she’s often makeup-free (I’m so glad she didn’t get a boob job as she does in the novel) and has a tender scene with her former guardian, Holger Palmgren (Per Oscarsson), showing that our girl is perfectly capable of caring for someone as long as that person isn’t a sadistic rapist pig.

Michael Nyqvist is also back as Mikael Blomkvist, looking even less believable as a handsome ladies’ man than in the previous film (keeping my fingers crossed for Daniel Craig in the American version). He gets Blomkvist’s doggedness across, but doesn’t have the journalist’s fire-in-the-belly righteousness. The rest of the cast is serviceable, with Micke Spreitz credible as the giant monster Ronald Niedermann.

The last quarter of the movie is the strongest, breathholdingly suspenseful despite my knowing what would happen. I jumped as much as the couple next to me in the theater, who probably haven’t read the books since they gasped at every revelation, especially about Zalachenko and Niedermann. The ending differs from the novel’s in several small details and is a little less abrupt, wrapping up with a scene that’s actually the opening of the third book. It’s still open-ended but that’s not why I left the theater feeling dissatisfied.

Nerd verdict: Fire doesn’t quite ignite

Photos © Music Box Films

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5 Comments »

  • EIREGO says:

    I caught the early screening today. I have to agree with you. I wanted so much more from this because the book really zipped along for me. Some seriously lame pacing kept me from enjoying the film as much as I wanted.

    And, am I the only one who realizes that pale yellow subtitles during scenes that are really bright DON’T WORK?!! How dumb is that? So simple to fix.

    Hope they get it right on The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

    It was a packed house for the screening I attended, so I figured everyone had read the books. Evidently not, because there were a lot of gasps and OMG!s when certain things were revealed (no, I will not wreck it for others by mentioning them here).

    On a side note: The reason I read your blog is because you not only have great taste, but that you fearlessly shoot from the hip. KEEP IT UP!!

  • I love the thought of Daniel Craig as Blomkvist! It seems curious that they intended this one and …the Hornet’s Nest for TV. I haven’t started this book yet ~ a boob job, seriously? Great review as usual ~ thank you for writing it as you see it, PCN!

  • Christine says:

    Intended for TV? Wonder what the thinking was behind that. I’m bummed that it didn’t WOW you like …Dragon Tattoo, but still looking forward to seeing it. Knowing ahead of time that the pace will be slower than I would have expected is good. I’ll be able to sit there and enjoy it more instead of getting frustrated. I only have to wait until the end of July before this starts showing in Nashville!

  • Pop Culture Nerd says:

    EIREGO—I thought the subtitles were too light and hard to read in several scenes, too. They should have been a bright mustard yellow instead of that pale pastel shade.

    Shell & Christine—I think they were intended for TV because no one expected the TATTOO movie to be so successful. When it exploded and made loads of money, the sequels were released theatrically, too.

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