Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Director: Daniel Alfredson
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist & Georgi Staykov

Less cinematic that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first of the Millennium adaptations, The Girl Who Played With Fire not only struggles with middle-film-in-a-trilogy syndrome but also fails to adequately adapt the source material with too many characters and sub-plots left undeveloped.

Based on the successful Millennium Trilogy of novels by Stieg Larsson, the first film in the trilogy named The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for international audiences was a successful adaptation both commercially and critically. All three films in the series had already been filmed and released in their native Sweden prior to their international release and all three were filmed with the intent of releasing shortened versions for cinemas with longer versions for television where the series would run as a mini-series. Where the first film adapted the first novel and felt like a film while remaining very faithful to the books, the second film The Girl Who Played With Fire now comes to cinemas and feels very different. Adapted by a different director than the first adaptation, the second film feels more like a TV movie in its production values but is also less faithful to the novels than the first film resulting in a disappointing second instalment in the series.

A year after the events of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, no one has seen young hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) for some time. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist) has moved onto other stories as young journalist brings him a story of a high profile prostitution and drugs racket running in Sweden which includes high ranking government officials amongst their clients. When the young journalist and his partner turn up murdered and the murder weapon at the scene bears Lisbeth’s fingerprints, Lisbeth becomes the police’s prime suspect especially when the weapon turns out to have belonged to Lisbeth’s care worker who once raped her and has also turned up murdered. With Lisbeth staying in hiding whilst trying to find evidence to prove her innocence, Blomkvist also investigates as he is also convinced that she is innocent and that the guilty party is a mysterious man named Zalachenko (Staykov) who is named in the murdered journalist’s notes who is a man that also has connections to Lisbeth, unbeknownst to Blomkvist.

Originally adapted as longer versions to be screened on Swedish television as a 6 part mini series, the film versions of the Millennium Trilogy had been shortened down for cinema audiences. Where the first film, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, adapted the first, and shortest, novel in the series while remaining largely faithful to the novels, The Girl Who Played With Fire suffers in comparison. Filmed by a different director than that of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the second film in the trilogy feels much more like a television production than the first film which managed to feel cinematic. Adapted from a longer novel and having to follow on from the first film whilst setting things up for the third and final film, The Girl Who Played With Fire was expected to suffer from some effects of middle-film syndrome since its story’s beginning and ending occur in other films but the adaptation also suffers on many other levels. The film is less close to the original source material than the first film which suggest a lot from the longer TV edit has been left out, notably a major plot thread involving a detective and his team introduced in this chapter that means many characters are left very undeveloped and the film seems to rush along to its conclusion with little of the time devoted to allowing us to get to know new characters or get to grips with developments in the story. Action set pieces in the film also fall flat lacking the scale or tension of their literary equivalent and tension as a whole during the story is barely felt which suggests that Alfredson, the director of this instalment of the trilogy, lacks the experience and/or confidence of his predecessor.

Fortunately performances as a whole remain good. Rapace and Nyqvist reprise their roles as Lisbeth and Blomkvist with ease with Rapace getting more screen time and development this time around as her character become the centre of attention for the series from this film onwards with her performance demonstrating strength and vulnerability well through her expressions given her character’s reluctance to speak most of the time. Georgi Staykov and Micke Spreitz appear as the menacing Zalachenko and his near mute, blond giant of a henchman with Staykov disappointing slightly with his performance bearing a whiff of bad Bond villain while Spreitz, also in a Bond-style henchman role, intimidates with his size. Johan Kylen barely registers as Detective Bublanski in a role that is severely cut down from that of the books and one hopes is better served in the TV edit of the adaptation whilst real life boxer Paolo Roberto also gets little time to impress playing himself as his role, also cut down, is poorly served by a poor edit of a fight sequence between himself and Spreitz that should have served as the film’s crowning action set piece.

After the engaging and faithful adaptation that was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire is a disappointing follow up and a disappointing adaptation of its source material too.

Rating: 2/5