The adaptation of part two of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy leaves Donald Clarke cold
STIEG LARSSON’S Millennium trilogy is a publishing phenomenon. Enthusiasts argue that the Swedish novels – following the efforts of a punkish researcher and an older, more grizzled journalist to unravel a mighty conspiracy – manage to combine clever reversals with genuine emotional punch. This may well be so. But the the first part of the film adaptation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, began to run out of puff somewhere into its second hour. The second in the sequence, though classily directed by Daniel Alfredson (brother of Let the Right One In’s Tomas), never manages to get the air back into its lungs. Few such sensational films have seemed quite so relentlessly dull.
The spine of the story is relatively straightforward: when Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the titular computer whizz, is framed for the murder of a campaigning reporter, Lisbeth’s friend, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), also a journalist, sets out to clear her name. Doing justice to the unravelling plot would, however, require more paper (and patience) than we can muster. There’s a great deal about sex trafficking. A mysterious individual named Zalachenko lurks in the metaphorical undergrowth. A peculiar boxer appears momentarily for no good narrative purpose.
There is, it must be said, no chance of you falling asleep during The Girl Who Played with Fire. Not that the film isn’t boring – it’s just that the bleeding phone won’t stop bleeding ringing all the bleeding time. Huge swathes of information – details on births, deaths and immolations – are relayed via apparently endless conversations on anxiously clutched receivers. For the anglophone viewer, taking the information in via subtitles, the experience is like reading a drab case report by a particularly pedantic investigating magistrate.
When the film allows us moments of action, it does so in the moustache-twirling style of a silent adventure series. If Lisbeth gets tied to the railings, you can be sure that some convenient sharp object will facilitate escape just before the locomotive crushes her brains. So, the villain has his gun trained upon you? Just throw some mud in his face. That ought to do the trick. The less said about the henchman with analgesia – good grief, they stole that from a Pierce Brosnan Bond film – the sooner relations between Sweden and The Irish Times can be properly repaired.
The end effect is alternately risible and stultifying. Yet, what with the concluding part of the Swedish cycle in the can and David Fincher’s English-language version looming, there’s four more of these things to come. Yikes.
Failure to ignite: Noomi Rapace in The Girl Who Played With Fire