We open a year after the events of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. After taking a much-needed vaycay in the Caribbean, our deeply troubled heroine Lisbeth Salander, victim of all manner of injustices — an evil father, a rapist lawyer for a guardian, her own detachment and obsessions — is about to re-enter Swedish society.
She takes the necessary precautions to keep her life hidden the way she likes it. She rents a massive flat under someone else’s name, keeping her old apartment in her name while subletting to a friend. She makes sure the rapist lawyer writes nice things about her to the state agency that has committed her into his care. She goes around making apologies for disappearing. She has issues, you know?
Meanwhile, uber-journalist Mikael Blomkvist (played with soft brio by Michael Nyqvist), has hired a freelancer who is about to break a massive story on human trafficking and prostitution.
All the while, he’s looking for Lisbeth, his hacker love bug. But when a girl like that takes off, not even an uber-journalist can find her.
But there are forces in this world that will not give Lisbeth peace, and soon Blomkvist’s new star journalist is killed — incredibly — using the rapist lawyer’s gun, which bears Lisbeth’s fingerprints.
And so we’re off on a twisty little Scandinavian holiday that winds around and around until we land smack dab in incredible revelations about the bad guy, who turns out to be Lisbeth’s … [spoiler redacted!].
Suffice it to say that through the magic of the Swedish equivalent of Hollywood, Lisbeth is in up to her eyeballs in a national intrigue that began the day she was born.
I suspect the film adaptations of the GwtDT franchise — like The Da Vinci Code — are better when watched as a companion to the books. Someone actually told me as much.
For a film this twisty, that’s a real problem.
The first film didn’t invite a close scrutiny of its plot, largely because Lisbeth Salander wasn’t so inextricably — unbelievably at times — caught up in the intrigue. She was just a hacker, who happened to fall in with a journalist. By Book Two, however, she’s become author Stieg Larsson’s Christ-figure: Everything centers on her.
Which is fine, but like tracing Jesus’ bloodlines back through Charlemagne and Saint Sarah (or whoever), figuring out just how Salander ties in to this whole mess becomes obsessive work. And once you figure it out, you’re left wondering exactly why the dominoes fell the way they did so she and Blomqvist would ultimately figure it all out.
Why kill the journalists? OK, then why kill the rapist lawyer? OK, then why kill the journalist with the rapist lawyer’s gun? You eventually get back to a question for which — at least in the world of this film — there is no answer.
Oh, there’s some vague skullduggery about the lawyer wanting an incriminating DVD that Salander has, but it goes nowhere near explaining why the people who ultimately kill him would want to try to frame Salander.
Once you get to thinking about it, the frame job is actually at cross-purposes to their own veil of criminal secrecy.
Maybe Larsson had a beautiful explanation worked out his book and maybe screenwriter Jonas Frykberg left it out along with what I hear are several lengthy subplots.
If he did, he shouldn’t have. The threads of a good thriller should fit like a key in a lock — complex yet decipherable, with a satisfying mental click! when everything lines up. The Girl Who Played With Fire isn’t that well constructed.
As it stands, the two-hour film needs a 630-page decoder ring, and I just ain’t got the fingers for it.