There are many of us who have no shame about our obsession with Lisbeth Salander, the tattooed, nose-ringed, bisexual computer hacker whom the late Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson placed at the center of his three posthumous bestsellers, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Given that, the prospect of a film version of the second book is a cause for excitement. It’s a shame that the second film, directed by Daniel Alfredson, lacks the stylistic flair and driving energy that Niels Arden Oplev brought to the film rendition of the first book. But Noomi Rapace, who became an international star in the role of Lisbeth, is back in action, and she’s spectacular.
On page and screen, The Girl Who Played With Fire picks up a year after Lisbeth has helped journalist Mikael Blomkvist (the superb Michael Nyqvist) clear himself of libel and escape death at the hands of the scion of a Swedish dynasty. Lisbeth’s affair with the much older Mikael has been stalemated by his romance with Erika Berger (Lena Endre), the editor of Millennium, the magazine where both work.
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The catalyst for the plot is a story Millennium is planning on sex trafficking. When the writers of the story are murdered, Lisbeth is implicated when her fingerprints are found on the murder weapon. Now it’s Mikael’s turn to get her out of a fix. As readers of the novel know, it’s Lisbeth’s father — a man the 12-year-old Lisbeth torched after he beat her mother — who holds the key to her destiny. Another mystery figure, a blond seven-foot-tall former boxer (Micke Spreitz), will provide Lisbeth with more brutal shocks to her already damaged psyche.
Relentless suspense allows The Girl Who Played With Fire to hold you in a viselike grip. But it’s the performances of Nyqvist and especially Rapace that keep you coming back for more. The film version of the third and final book will be released in the U.S. in the fall. And — cringe alert! — Hollywood is planning its own take on this Swedish psychological thriller. What might save the day is the reported involvement of director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en). Talk is that current James Bond Daniel Craig will play Mikael, and An Education Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan will take on Lisbeth. Right now, I can’t see anyone but Nyqvist and Rapace in those roles. See The Girl Who Played With Fire and tell me you don’t agree.