THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB
Director: Fede Alvarez
Screenwriters: Fede Alvarez, Jay Basu and Steven Knight, based on the eponymous novel by David Lagercrantz based on the characters by Stieg Larsson.
Runtime: 117 mins.
Australian release date: 8 November 2018
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 31 October 2018.
In the second English-language movie of the film franchise based on the successful Stieg Larsson Millennium series of novels, vigilante hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist make contact again after being out of touch for a while. She’s been keeping below the radar (while still dishing out rough justice to monstrous men) and he’s been busy with the new owners of Millennium magazine. In The Girl in the Spider’s Web they combine forces to overcome a group of ruthless Russian gangsters prepared to wreak havoc on the ice-bound streets of Stockholm in order to gain access to a doomsday satellite program. Fans of the films will remember that Larsson’s trilogy was first produced in Sweden in 2009 starring Noomi Rapace as Salander and the late Michael Nyqvist as Blomkvist, and then an English-language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was released in 2011 featuring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig as the two protagonists. Now we have The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the first film based on a book not by Larsson, who died in 2004, but by fellow Swede David Lagercrantz and this time Salander is played by English actress Claire Foy, sporting a dramatically different look to any we’ve seen previously.
Out of the blue, Salander is contacted by Professor Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), a Swedish scientist who has developed a computer system, Firewall, for the US National Security Agency that controls all their nuclear missiles. Now regretful for his horrifying creation, Balder wants Lisbeth to hack into the NSA and basically steal it back so he can destroy it. In the meantime, the lives of he and his autistic son, August (Christopher Convery), are in danger because malevolent forces are also aware of the existence of Firewall and want to get their hands on it. Salander engages fellow-hacker Plague (Cameron Britton) to assist her in overcoming her opponents and contacts Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) in the hope that he can expose the criminals’ conspiracy by publishing their back-story. Things become even more complicated, however, when a close contact from Lisbeth’s past comes back into her life and she has to grapple with memories that have left an indelible mark on her being.
Foy plays the avenging angel well in a part that is a far cry from her recent role as Queen Elizabeth II in the television series The Crown. Swathed in black leather, with multiple piercings and short dark hair, Salander is the epitome of a damaged woman out to right the wrongs perpetuated on her not just by a male-dominated society, but by her criminal and depraved father. Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez comes from a horror background, having successfully remade Sam Raimi’s cult classic Evil Dead and award-winner Don’t Breathe, but here he’s gone for a slicker look, albeit using a similarly dark palette. The opening credits set the tone and they’re positively James Bond-ian, right down to the music, and there are plenty of car chases and even a motorcycle ride across a frozen lake that make for thrilling viewing. Overall though, the screenplay for The Girl in the Spider’s Web falls short of its predecessors, and you feel as if you’ve seen it all before. It’s fairly predictable and contains some mighty plot holes – would you leave all your blinds open if you were living in fear for your life in a safe-house with large windows? In this movie, Salander is more akin to a female Jason Bourne than a borderline psycho, in a yarn that is ultimately dissatisfying. No doubt, though, it will do well at the box office but only by riding on the back of its superior predecessors.