FILM REVIEW – The Girl Who Played With Fire

By Joseph Viney


Following on directly from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009), the second film in the trilogy of adaptations of Steig Larsson’s best-selling juggernaut Millennium tries to recapture the magic of the first film. Unfortunately, The Girl Who Played With Fire has many apparent short falls that will only serve to leave audiences distinctly unfulfilled. However, the appetite for the imminent third part of the trilogy will have not been affected whatsoever.


Picking up the thread a year on from the events of Dragon Tattoo (reviewed here), not much has changed. Blomkvist has returned to his magazine after serving a jail term for defamation of character and restarted doing what he does best; righting social wrongs through the medium of investigative journalism. Lisbeth Salander, the film’s eponymous hero, is gallivanting around the world on stolen money. Blomkvist and Salander have not spoken for a year, their relationship finished.

In fact, the film spends an inordinate amount of time from the outset reintroducing characters the audience should already be well acquainted with. There’s been adequate time to see the first film and so an audience shouldn’t be burdened with having to go through the motions again.

Salander may need more than a simple reintroduction. Her character in the first film was an impressive specimen; sultry good looks, would-be silent assassin attitude and the strength of ten men. Alas, for part two she undergoes a complete sea change. Salander, played so ably by Noomi Rapace, is battered, bruised and bloodied throughout. What was once so strong is now vulnerable and the character much worse off for it. Her skills and street smarts seem to have deserted her as she leans towards a more settled life, even setting up home with Ikea furniture, just in case you had forgotten where the film was set.


The plot is the film’s major weak point. Despite feeling overlong, the film has compressed a lot of source material into shorter segments. Characters are introduced, a quick back story given and then away they go to fulfil their scripted destinies. They are truly disposable heroes.

Speak to fans of the book and they will tell you about one large segment wherein Salander spends time in the Caribbean and befriends a husband and wife. It transpires that the husband is abusing the wife and over the course of a large part of the book she sets about investigating, setting up a trap and ultimately teaching the abusive husband a lesson.

The book buffs will remark that this is important for the development of Salander’s character; she uses all of her attributes to solve a problem that most would ignore or bury their head in the sand over. Is it in the film? Is it even referenced? In short, no. Think of the difference between Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal and the movie of the same name. Whole chapters, sequences and developments are washed over or ignored completely to make way for the considered centrepieces and the whole operation suffers as a result.

Instead the important and subtle developments are pushed aside in place of more frantic action sequences, rushed amateur sleuthing and hot and steamy lesbian sex scenes.

Yes, that’s right. Are there alarm bells going off? Good ones, that is. Perhaps there should be. One of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s centrepieces was a graphic and somewhat uncomfortable rape scene. Not one for the family. Maybe taking heed of feedback, any scenes of forceful domination make way for an unexpected foray into the realm of sapphire erotica where everything is on display. Everything.


The main storyline itself is somewhat confusing, taking in sex trafficking, corrupt officialdom, gruesome murders and various quick zooms to a number of locations. Sure enough, in an insane last 30 minutes the film goes from 0-60 in the blink of an eye.

Salander’s past is brought to the fore; her troubled childhood and events in that time finally come back to haunt her and potentially worse. The final few scenes evoke imagery of such stark violence that you wonder what the Swedish have in their diet and on their televisions to create such scenes.

As is expected, the film is open ended and a third instalment is more than imminent. Efforts must be made to ensure that the series is not a one hit wonder though. What is needed is a strong sense of character development, a plot that encompasses both decent action and a strong script and overall a sense that the rules of a trilogy have been satisfied. There is enough in the foundations to ensure this and fans, reviewers and the general public should have confidence that a fulfilling, natural conclusion can be resolved, even after this slightly disappointing middle installment.

6 OUT OF 10

All Images © 2010 Music Box Films

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1 Comment

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One response to “FILM REVIEW – The Girl Who Played With Fire

  1. Elena Cresci

    I’ve yet to see either of the films in the series, nor have I read the books (got them on loan at the library though, hurrah!), but I’ve seen things about this everywhere, so I think it’s about time I acquaint myself with the series. Such a shame that the sequel doesn’t live up to its predecessor though, let’s hope the final installment makes up for it.

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