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The Girl Who Played With Fire

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

GIVEN the groundswell of acclaim that surrounded The Girl With Dragon Tattoo it’s perhaps all the more remarkable that Daniel Alfredson’s sequel is, in many ways, an even better film.

Building on the successful partnership at the centre of the first film, as well as staying loyal to the hard-hitting complexity of Stieg Larsson’s source novel, The Girl Who Played With Fire is an extremely gripping thriller that offers extra insight into its two intriguing central characters.

What’s more, it does so by keeping them apart for almost the entire film, allowing their relationship to develop via snatched moments (email messages) and revelations about Lisbeth Salander’s past.

The story itself is built around Salander, who finds herself accused of three murders and forced to go into hiding to prove her innocence, while journalist Mikael Blomkvist also attempts to clear her name and reunite with her. The ensuing investigation also draws upon a sex trafficking ring that has a surprisingly personal connection to Salander’s past.

For those who have read Larsson’s books, the revelations won’t come as a surprise. So, in many ways the film works best for those who don’t know what’s coming.

But it’s credit to Jonas Frykberg’s absorbing sreenplay and the fine pacing of Alfredson’s direction that even if you do know the outcome, the characters are genuinely worth spending time with.

Just as she did in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace shines as Salander… emerging as a cauldron of fury when the need arises, yet also demonstrating some hitherto untapped sensitivity, especially in her dealings with a lesbian lover and former friend, Blomkvist.

Salander is a rich cinematic creation, a clever, feisty, deeply troubled individual whose slow path to some form of self redemption makes for a really intriguing journey. The standard has been set extremely high for the Hollywood remake to follow.

But Michael Nyqvist is no less impressive, his dogged investigative journalist Blomkvist a driven individual whose feelings for Salander contain a wonderful ambiguity between paternal and possibly romantic. His resolve is severely put to the test throughout the case, especially as matters turn more and more perilous and personal.

As with Dragon Tattoo, the central mystery surrounding The Girl Who Played With Fire is cleverly written and just as gripping, with several of the latter twists adding even more emotional complexity to proceedings.

And Alfredson – brother of Let The Right One In‘s Tomas – tosses in some excellent set pieces to heighten the film’s crowd-pleasing elements, including a thrilling confrontation between Salander and two burly bikers and a sequence in a burning barn that really has you on the edge of your seat.

The hard-hitting sexual violence that made elements of Dragon Tattoo so difficult to watch is also played down a little more in this sequel… even though the film never shies away from the harsh reality of the world that Salander exists in.

All told, The Girl Who Played With Fire is tense, emotionally absorbing and thought-provoking cinema that confidently surpasses the achievements of its equally impressive predecessor. It truly does justify the hype surrounding this ongoing literary and cinematic phenomenon.

In Swedish, with subtitles

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 10mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: January 10, 2011