The first attempt at the fourth book containing the fourth appearance of a character in her fifth film being played by a third actress is hardly what you’d call a smooth entry into a franchise, but then, super-hacker Lisbeth Salander have never really done anything the easy way.
Then again, neither has Sony, choosing finally follow up the David Fincher remake by nimbly bouncing over Hornet’s Nests and Girls Playing With Fire to focus on the instalment NOT written by the late author Stieg Larsson.
On first glance, this seems odd but actually, on paper, this makes a lot of sense. I personally found the second and third instalments to be oddly unsatisfying, squaring Salander’s prickly anarchist against her own family tree and dragging out tired Bond villain rejects of bad guys to vanquish. Like most anti-heroes, Lisbeth works better as an enigma, wandering into other people’s carnage and fixing them from the inside out. Mad Max, Snake Plisken, even Jack Sparrow work far better when purely being proactive without an unnecessary, cumbersome backstory weighing them down and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is no different.
So it’s somewhat of a disappointment that the newest movie pretty much dives straight back into exactly the same story mode with another painfully blonde, super intelligent sibling, emerging from nowhere to stir up inner turmoil in our anti-heroine.
Hired to steal a programme that can override nukes (or something), Salander finds herself double crossed and pursued by crime syndicates, American spies and the police. Predictably running to (jarringly de-aged) journalist and friend Mikael Blomqvisk for aid, the renegade hacker back tracks to find the source of all her current woes lead back (once again) to her own family tree.
Director Fede Álvarez orchestrates some stirring visuals and brief, if hard hitting, action while drawing heavily on his own horror background (The Evil Dead remake and the excellent Don’t Breathe) but unfortunately these moments end up being little pockets of gems lodged in a largely vanilla slice of techno-nordic-noir. The man who reveals the hidden, devastating facial wound given to him by a crime syndicate will haunt your brain long after the film ends.
Claire Foy predictably gives a strong go at Salander, nailing the accent and projecting intelligent vulnerability all over the place but compared to Rooney Mara’s emasculated anarchist and (more importantly) Noomi Rapace’s brutalistic avenging angel, she turns in a more brooding, calmer interpretation of the character. Not worse, to be honest. Just different. Everyone else does good work although Stephen Merchant’s Cornish twang kinda stands out and Sylvia Hoeks is merely cookie cutter evil with invisible eyebrows, a shame considering how formidable she is in Blade Runner 2049.
So, to round up, a nicely competent thriller with some stirring moments but nothing substantial enough to justify a return for this franchise.
The Girl With The Diminishing Returns?
Looks like it…