Like Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy, you need to read/see “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in order to understand this sequel. In the first movie, crusading Stockholm business journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) enlisted the help of a punk, pierced-and-tattooed computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), to solve a 40 year-old cold case.
As this installment begins, sullen Lisbeth is on a Caribbean island, culminating her world travels after absconding with a fortune. Then on the eve of Millennium magazine’s publication of a provocative article about prostitution and sex trafficking in Sweden, its two authors are murdered. And feisty Lisbeth’s fingerprints are found on the gun, which belonged to the vile, abusive guardian (Peter Andersson) who raped her. Soon after, he’s found dead. All evidence for the triple murder points to secretive, chain-smoking Lisbeth, who must elude capture while searching for legal/police records that will prove her innocence. Meanwhile, Mikael – from whom Lisbeth has been estranged – is committed to unearthing details from her tragic, tortured past, which involves uncovering an evil conspiracy and revealing the identity of a Russian spy (Georgi Staykov) who defected to Sweden and the ruthless, hulking blond enforcer (Micke Spreitz) who protects him.
Screenwriter Jonas Frykberg and director Daniel Alfredson do their best to condense the late Stieg Larsson’s complex, multi-layered concept, condemning the sexism and corruption that he felt permeated Swedish society. Indeed, the original title of the first book was “Men Who Hate Women.” The fact that this film was assembled from two 90-minute made-for-TV movies perhaps explains the flat photography and murky lighting.
What makes this visually brutal thriller extraordinary is its avenging, androgynous heroine, perfectly embodied by Noomi Rapace. Let’s hope Sony retains sinewy, riveting Rapace in its upcoming Hollywood adaptation of this immensely popular trilogy.
In Swedish with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” is a smoldering, suspenseful 7, whetting the appetite for “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” set for release in October.