The Girl Who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) is almost equivalent to the theatrical version of Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. It’s the middle film that seems to be missing something, some integral component that would make it complete, the bridge between two great films (Hopefully. I have not seen the third film in the series: The Girl That Kicked a Hornets Nest). The Girl Who Played with Fire is a very good film with elements of its predecessor that made it great but it is not as good as that film – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
The Girl Who Played with Fire elaborates on a few of the storylines begun in the previous film while introducing new characters and alluding to ones from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Those and the following are the film’s main strengths: the intermingling of the old with the new, keeping the familiar but adding more and more new elements along the way.
Where the film falters is that some classic setups are employed, setups that the viewer instantly knows the ending to, old familiar roads they have walked down numerous times before in other films.
Like in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace)’s past is delved into. As was mentioned before, new characters are introduced but two in particular standout: one outwardly deformed and the other, inwardly. The story of the outwardly deformed is the plot line that builds in the background behind the main events in the film. It is that storylines that inadvertently and clandestinely propels all the others in the film.
When finally confronted, the deformed person’s palpable hatred is almost as powerful as Salander’s flickering narcissism and emotional need to avoid close relationships.
During the film as one character takes aim with a gun at another, the viewer will momentarily wonder if the film with conveniently deviate from the reality of the person doing the shooting. It does not. Author Stieg Larsson and screenwriter Jonas Frykberg take the road less traveled. Building up a character, imbuing them with a particular background then that person suddenly lacking the ability to shoot accurately would have been absurd.
Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and Lisbeth’s bond turns from one of attraction to that of friendship – not that Blomkvist really wants that. He has no choice in the matter. There is also a finely orchestrated juxtaposition between the two of them. In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, one character comes to the aid of the other in their time of greatest need. In The Girl Who Played wit Fire, their roles are reversed.
There are few extended, slow motion shots that draw out rather than draw in the audience but as they are infrequent they are only a mild qualm e.g. director Daniel Alfredson takes the time to show the audience that it is really actress Noomi Rapace operating and driving the motor cycle in the film not a stunt person.
The resolution of the film in the third act is not as rich or as fulfilling as the resolution in The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo – pieces are simply put into their place without the electricity, the palpable build up of the former film – but the film makes up for these dramatic shortcomings with classic Hollywood sequel substitutions: action and bloodshed.
Daniel Alfredson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire is a worthy follow-up to the first film but one that does not surpass it. Like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers -because of it’s ending – The Girl Who Played With Fire feels more like an add-on film than a stand-alone motion picture. Because of the quality of the first film, that is not such a bad thing.