Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

The second in the Steig Larson Millennium Trilogy arrived in cinemas this weekend. The book sales may still be extremely healthy - have you travelled on London's underground lately? - but the critics seem to have been sharpening their claws in anticipation. Despite that, this film has had a juggernaut of publicity pushing it into the public consciousness and with a 15 certificate is more likely to reach a wider audience.

Critics and to some extent the movie-going public seem to demand more of a second film in a trilogy than the first delivered - particularly so when the first film breaks important ground in some cinematographic way - like The Matrix trilogy for example. It is true that a lot of the intrigue aroused by the first film centred on the character of Lisbeth Salander played by Noomi Rapace. The question then is how do you develop the character in a meaningful way whilst having a plot that makes sense and gives continuity with the first film? The answer is to begin unpeeling some of the layers that encase the complex character that is Salander. Why was she such a striking and troubled person in the first film? What gave her cause to hate men - Women who hate men being the Swedish title of the first film?

The story is about abuse of power - expressed in sexual activity. This film manges to present five sex scenes - two of them mutually consensual, three of them involving masochistic bondage and abuse - what is it with Swedish men - or are they archetypes? This film has a different director whose style is in stark contrast to the first film - that makes it visually a very different proposition. This film is shot much more in close-up using steady-cams and whilst some plot devices are telegraphed - like seeing the name on a wheelie bin outside a house to show us who owns it, others are completely absent like how did Blomquist know where in Malmo to look for Salander?

There is certainly plenty of action in this film. Too much violence and more than enough blood. This time, these features are an over-indulgence. This does detract from the viewing experience. Too many plot devices are borrowed from James Bond movies - this too exhibits a lack of originality. However, overall the film is still excellent and I am already looking forward to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest!

For me the story is about how a young girl who dares to take on her abusive father who enjoys immunity from Swedish law and as a result is herself abusively institutionalised, comes to terms with that as an adult. Salander is intellectually sharp. She is blessed, or cursed, with a photographic memory which perhaps too often triggers vivid flashbacks. Her computer hacking and investigative skills are again to the fore. The story in this second instalment of the trilogy is all about explaining how Lisbeth Salander got to be the person we were introduced to in the first film. It tells this story very well and sets things up well for the finale.

I am told by those who have read the books that the transition to film is very faithful - perhaps that's why this is another long film? If you can stomach blood and physical violence - go and see it. That is easier to watch than the violation of the young Lisbeth Salander and its consequences.

I give this 7.5/10.

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