Lisbeth goes all Bond-lite
THE ADVENTURES of Lisbeth Salander, the intrepid punk-goth hacker made famous in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, continue in
The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
The film-makers take a heroic, action-packed, hi-tech approach that empties out some of the originality of this unique female heroine.
Instead they point the movie at a rather different kind of audience from the first trio of Swedish movies and David Fincher’s 2011 remake The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
It is based on the book by David Lagercrantz that continues the series after Larsson’s death.
There is a new back story for Lisbeth that soft-pedals the original one of multiple rapes and abuse. Other disconcerting changes should test the loyalty of the series’ fans, while perhaps picking up younger audiences. She now sports much more advanced IT skills.
She also has the new superpower of accessing any computer in the world in two clicks, not to mention driving motorbikes and Ferraris over ice and snow at Le Mans speed and surviving certain-death situations.
If you flash on an angry, pierced, femme version of James Bond, you are into the spirit of the piece directed by Fede Alvarez and starring Claire Foy (First Man, The Crown) in the lead role.
Perfunctory in its psychological realism and flagrantly lacking any other kind, the screenplay by Alvarez, Jay Basu and Steven Knight is certainly not the most satisfying version of Lisbeth. But it is edgy and action-packed, and Alvarez’s direction keeps the tension high through a string of ever-more-improbable threats to Lisbeth and her allies.
In the end, her character is so invincible she feels unreal as a human personality. It’s also perplexing to discover she has a sister (Sylvia Hoeks) whom she left behind when she escaped from their father, a Russian crime lord.
This is her new traumatic childhood, which is supposed to have turned her into a vigilante famed for hurting men who hurt women, probably as close to a #MeToo hashtag as an action-thriller can come.
Her reputation as a dangerous outlaw hacker gives her underground cool. Her big wounded eyes belying a toughguy appearance, the athletic Foy does quite a respectable job following in the footsteps of Rooney Mara and, in the Swedish films, Noomi Rapace.
Her casual bisexuality is entirely in keeping with her modern image: She has a number of female lovers but still has a tender spot for Mikael Blomkvist, the unfaithful journalist who wrote and published her story. In a muchreduced part, Sverrir Gudnason is hardly more than a shadow in the role that was Daniel Craig’s. Versatile Luxembourg actress Vicky Krieps is more regrettably thrown away in a cameo as Mikael’s business partner and lover. The story proper begins when she’s contacted by Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), a frightened US programmer who is in possession of software capable of hacking into the world’s nuclear arsenals.
He has come to fear it’s not a good thing to leave unattended in the hands of the US government. Admittedly, the stakes are high, and for once Lisbeth is stymied over a password. Though Balder doesn’t get far into the story, he has communicated all the passwords to his savant 6-yearold son August, played by the delightfully serious Christopher Convery. The boy’s presence in Sweden complicates things for Lisbeth, Mikael, the Swedish head of national security and the film’s best new character, Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield), a legendary hacker turned NSA security techie.
Sweden’s wintry landscapes are the ideal background to buildings bursting into blazing fireballs and motorcycle chases on ice. Imaginative visuals keep coming when a colourful figure from Lisbeth’s past appears and, surprise but no surprise, turns out to be the Spider Master. This archvillain first gasses, then vacuumpacks Lisbeth in a plastic bag, which must be a first in the world of screen punishment. However, their final confrontation takes place on emotional terrain that is exactly the film’s weak point.