Mikael Blomkvist and the editors of Millenium magazine are on the trail of a people trafficking ring after a bright, young investigative journalist and his girlfriend uncover a trail of johns and pimps running the ring. However, after the journalist and his girlfriend are assassinated, who should get the blame but Lisbeth Salander, friend and ex-lover of Blomkvist who has recently returned to Sweden after a year abroad. When her guardian, Nils Bjurman, gets brutally murdered as well, the noose seems to be tightening around Lisbeth's neck. Can Blomkvist get to the truth? Can Lisbeth clear he own name whilst evading police capture?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a film I saw earlier this year and completely loved. Based on the series of books by the late Stieg Larsson, it was the start of 'The Girl' trilogy of films, which made me eager to see this sequel. Every great film trilogy has the 'weak link' film. The Godfather trilogy has The Godfather III. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has The Two Towers. Even the Toy Story trilogy has Toy Story 2. I sincerely hope that The Girl Who Played with Fire is the weak link in The Girl trilogy. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad film, not by a long shot. This film is still a lot better than a lot of the mainstream Hollywood junk being churned out at the moment. The Girl who Played with Fire just isn't a GREAT film.
One of the main reasons The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was so good was because of the on-screen chemistry and relationship between Mikael Blomvkist, played by Michael Nyqvist, and Lisbeth Salander, played by the excellent Noomi Rapace. With The Girl Who Played with Fire, you get two mini-films in one, as the two characters don't meet until the end. This is, of course, vital to the plot of the movie, but nevertheless it means that you don't get to see the great on-screen chemistry they had built up in Dragon Tattoo. For a film not to take advantage of something like that is near to being a cinematic crime, even if they were tied down by the source material. It's a real shame, but it does give both of these actors to demonstrate their own separate acting abilities, and they play the parts extremely well, much as they did in Dragon Tattoo. I realise I'm mentioning Dragon Tattoo an awfully lot for a review of its sequel, but that's how truly good it was.
I believe the main problem with Played with Fire is that it wasn't quite as slick as its predecessor. Played with Fire doesn't truly develop characters or explain the somewhat complicated storyline enough for me. Considering the film is 2 hours long, it goes to show how much is crammed into this film that they have to breeze past the basics like introductions and explanations. The story is just as good and just as intricate as the plot of Dragon Tattoo, one would expect nothing less from Larsson. The problem is that this film adaptation doesn't have enough time to explain everything the way Larsson would have wanted it explained or else we would have been looking at a version of Played with Fire being released which would have been nearing a running time only rivaled by Cleopatra.
Visually, it's a case of as you were with Played with Fire. Different director in Daniel Alfredson but you still get the visuals of an aesthetically pleasing Sweden, the slow editing and stringent use of close-up. It's a case of Alfredson using the template Oplev laid down with Dragon Tattoo. Story wise, there isn't as much action in this installment. You do get the odd fight scene and car action, but other than that, it's a very wordy movie with a lot of conversation and it just slows the movie down. You get a lot of conversation, and a lot of Salander smoking a cigarette sitting in front of a laptop. Having said that, the first half hour of the film could easily be classed as a soft porn film with the amount of nudity and lesbian sex scenes. An eye opener certainly, but necessary to the plot? Questionable.
Overall, this is still a good film, an engrossing two hours with enough twists, turns and suspense to keep you engrossed as anyone who's read the book will tell you. However, Dragon Tattoo set the level of expectation far too high for this film and it just can't reach it, though it was never likely to in all honesty. It's well worth seeing, as I said earlier it's a lot better than 95% of what's out there right now, but just don't expect another Dragon Tattoo. Fingers crossed The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest can finish this trilogy in style.