The Girl Who Played With Fire (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Girl Who Played With Fire (2010)

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Andrew DISLIKEI'm finding it hard to muster up the words to properly critique The Girl Who Played With Fire because most of my strength has left me.  For what felt like hour after hour the story drug on, slowly daring me to continue along it's plodding journey with not a destination in sight.  When a conclusion finally stumbled into view almost accidentally, the film mercifully ended - but on a cliffhanger.

Slowly all the boredom and depression I was feeling in the previous scenes turned to rage.  It was bad enough that barely twenty minutes worth of plot occurs in the two hour plus film, but what little content remains is now actually split up over two films.  Oh fiddlesticks, I guess that just means I'll have to wait for the DVD of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest to see if anyone walks anywhere dramatically.

The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second film based on the book of the same name in Stieg Larson's Millennium Trilogy.  Apparently this trilogy was set to span ten books before his death, so I question the wisdom of referring to the bloated things he left as an actual trilogy is a bit disingenuous.  Still, this is the film, and one of the wonders of book to film adaptations is the cabaility of a solid director and screenwriter to turn and overly large tome into a film that cuts to the core of the material without losing it's unique touch.

Sadly, only one element of the film seems to save any sort of spark from the books, and that is the heroine, Lisbeth (Noomi Repace).  She was the bearer of the dragon tattoo in the first film and returns to explain why she likes to toy with flammables in this one.  I did not like the first film and actively dislike this one, but her performances in both of them are sort of amazing.  It's not too often that we get tattoo clad goth female heroines that are as strong as Lisbeth, and Noomi makes the most of every second onscreen, cackling with pent up aggression and a barely restrained disgust for her fellow man.

Study this man's expression. Because he, and many others, refuse to alter this look throughout the whole film.

It's too bad that her performance is put into a plot that does its best to defang Lisbeth and force her into the background.  TGWPF takes place a year after the end of the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Lisbeth is living a comfortable sort of pseudo-retirement while her old partner Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) has cleared his name and is running his old magazine.  Shortly after returning to Sweden Lisbeth is framed for murder and begins the work to clear her name.  Blomkvist continues his long distance admiration of her and similarly does what he can to find evidence in support of her innocence.

The bloat of the books is felt pretty significantly in the film.  It takes almost forty minutes for this central plot to come into view.  In the meantime we spend time with Lisbeth and Blomkvist's various side projects, like keeping an old case worker in line or launching a fact finding detail into the business of human trafficking in Sweden.  This is all kind of interesting, but we're asked to play connect the dots in relation to the big picture with these events and, ultimately, they serve as little more than distraction.

As much as I didn't really care for the central mystery in the first film, it's a labyrinthine masterpiece compared to the flimsy bit of plotting we get in this film.  The clues are slowly doled out and never find an interesting way to coalesce into a grand mystery.  Worse still is the blonde Nordic superman that is stalking Lisbeth and one of her old lovers.  We know he's involved, because as meandering as the film is its still not going to include a red herring that large, but his connection feels convoluted and strange compared to the tricky family logic of the first film.

Occasionally we're tricked into thinking that something's going to happen. This is momentary confusion, let it slide past, then defer back to your boredom defense.

Sequence after sequence lurches by with barely any change in the status quo.  Gone too is the look of the first film, replacing the visual approach of a gothic mystery with a style whose chief benefit is that there is lighting in each of the scenes.  There's nothing that indicates the director and his crew had any sort of tactic in approaching this film visually, so went with the most boring approach possible.  This, along with its many other faults, did not endear me to stay awake.

When the final film comes out on DVD I'll still watch it because Noomi Repace is so good in the role.  That's what makes these films so frustrating.  The story is there, the lead can more than carry the weight, but no one can put the package together properly.  The upcoming David Fincher remakes of the films should be interesting, but it'll face a huge handicap if Noomi can't get involved.  I'll wait and see, and try and work off my frustrations with this film by taking the nap it demanded.

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The Girl Who Played With Fire (2010)

Directed by Daniel Alfredson.
Written by  Jonas Frykberg.
Starring Noomi Repace and Michael Nyqvist.

Posted by Andrew

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