Rated R for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language, 129 minutes, in English and Swedish with English subtitles
Gripping, intense "The Girl Who Played With Fire"
There are millions of fans across the globe of late Swedish author Stieg Larsson's book series "Millenium Trilogy," and they'll be pleased to the see the absorbing Swedish-made second film installment, "The Girl Who Played With Fire," based on Larsson's book of the same name. The story, featuring tough-as-nails feminist character Lisbeth Salander, has become a worldwide phenomenon, captivating millions of readers and now moviegoers. While this isn't as fresh as the first chapter, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," this still has enough intensity to satisfy the legions of fans of the novel.
Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) returns to Sweden after spending a year abroad. Having returned, she falls under suspicion for having committed the murder of a journalist and his girlfriend as well as her guardian Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson). Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) has to do what he can to find her before the authorities do.
The enjoyable, fun "The Girl Who Played With Fire" continues the dark travails of undercover researcher Lisbeth Salander, and it's because of Larsson's superb source material that the Swedish-made film is vastly engrossing. With a different director (Daniel Alfredson) and screenwriter (Jonas Frykberg) than the original film, the film could've gone in a completely direction, but film mainains the noirish tone of the novel and the first film.
Of course, the highlight of "The Girl Who Played With Fire" is Swedish actress Rapace's forceful performance as the aggressive, tough Lisbeth, a multi-layered character with some serious issues. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" better outlined some Lisbeth's troubles, and this chapter continues to lay them out. Rapace's nimble performance and dead-serious glare (watch her take out a couple of bikers and then ride off on one of the bikes) that would put Angelina Jolie blush. Nyqvist is also strong as the detective who follows her and also has a relationship with her.
Those who aren't fans of the novels may want to either read them or get a CliffsNotes version (is what this critic did) to help you make sense of the complexities of the plot and some character traits and motivations. Unlike the first film, "The Girl Who Played With Fire" is more efficient (i.e. shorter) and the satisfying climax, like that film, is earnest and violent.
"The Girl Who Played With Fire" is an entertaining, well-acted dark crime mystery with a stellar, feminist heroine. These Swedish versions, already big hits overseas, will be even more scrutnized as the American version is underway, directed by David Fincher and featuring Daniel Craig as Blomkvist and newcomer Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, that will be released Christmas 2011. Well worth a look.