Directed by Daniel Alfredson

Reviewed by Marion DS Dreyfus

Having just finished the Steig Larsson book, seeing THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE on screen was a much-anticipated and self-referential event, one readers had long awaited.

Scriptwriter Jonas Fykberg was adept at condensing many hundreds of pages of exposition and incident into a fluid narrative, though you had to wonder if, absent the reading, audiences would 'get' all the myriad details in the story. I had a slight problem with the core casting, Lisbeth Salander, because i had built up a somewhat different image than the one confronting us in the film. (I did not see the first in the series, where the same cast obtains.) In the book, for instance, Salander ha had breast implants, where in the film, of course, she is, ahem, not endowed. A small thing, but many of the people she encounters after her year away comment on the changes to her 'look.' Here, in the film, they do not. A romance is omitted that has much to say about the polymorphously perverse or plain experimental.

No big thing.

Overall, it is an engrossing and diverting spool-out of a complex story. One is sorry Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) is not still alive to enjoy the enactment of his dense, terse tale, the second in his Millennium series, after THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Despite the foreign provenance and the posthumous publication of the series, the books have easily hit the NY Times' bestseller list, and there are 40 million copies in print. The travelogue aspect of the far-ranging drama is certainly worth the price of admission, with beautiful vistas usually unfamiliar to non-Scandinavians.

Being a constant aficionado of Lowlands film output, this added to enjoyment by being so savvy and sophisticated, yet, of course, slightly and reliably foreign, too, in the spoken Swedish, with so many recognizable aspects of pan-cultural life in Europe today so closely paralleling or echoing the US. The heroine, Salander, played by the intense Nomi Rapace, who earlier won the Best Actress Guldbagge award, the swedish equivalent to our Oscar, for her portrayal of Salander in TATTOO. is a terrific protagonist, of course, being intensely intuitive, highly senstized techie, her own person, not a worshipper of the exterior, but deeply humanistic to the insightful eye. And she is of course a superb pugilist, a tenacious and spectacular hacker, and an intensely idiosyncratic female icon. This is not a film that hands you an easy "good person vs bad person" menu; you work to figure out which is whom, what is what. Your attention is fully given over to the story and people so dynamic in their individual lives. I wanted to see more of the Millennium magazine's politicking, more of the policeman Bublanski. Everyone has a tangible backstory, even those seen for a few moments of film, and you are vested in learning and seeing more of them.

The story of seamy global sex trafficking and the attempt to cover up associated crimes around which this adaptation is spun involves thugs, prostitutes, journalists and workaday people. Lisbeth is fingered as the one guilty of a sensational triple murder, though her friend and defender, Millennium mag publisher Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nykvist), cannot square his knowledge of the wild post-adolescent Salander with the lurid newspaper accounts. Beyond sex trafficking, the film touches on the unchecked injustices rampant in the field of incarcerating the allegedly mentally unstable, psychiatry as a field ripe for abuse if its practitioners have unwholesome agendae, domestic violence, and the public's seemingly unquenchable desire for gossip and scandal, even if unproved and often, entirely misplaced.

At 129 minutes, it is slightly longer than many current sibling films, but the viewer is scarcely aware of the passage of time. The crescendo last scene could be followed by many more before the viewer would realize he is hungry or thirsty.

One now looks forward to the third offering of the GIRL WHO trilogy. Again: What a shame Larsson did not live for more to roll off his printer.

Marion Ds Dreyfus . . . 20(c)10


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