Claire Foy hacks, but script lacks
“The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story” has lots of what you want, if you want something grindingly familiar. It’s full of prettily photographed brutality, most of it in the neighborhood of Claire Foy, the latest screen incarnation of the dragontattooed Lisbeth Salander. Throughout the film the largely nonverbal Foy’s either getting tased or choked or punched or shot or, worst of all, patronized, or she’s the one doing the tasing, choking, punching and shooting. Best of all she motorcycles at high speeds on ice, while hapless Stockholm policemen left on shore wonder if anything or anyone can catch that elusive leather-clad cyberhacking vigilante.
Uruguayan-born Fede Alvarez (“Don’t Breathe,” the recent “Evil Dead” reboot) handles the action breathlessly and well enough. The movie’s acted with serious conviction. But I kind of hate it.
The people who call the ongoing Lisbeth Salander saga a feminist triumph are both desperate for role models, and equating feminism with female-on-male revenge. This is crude, low stuff with a supremely high-minded veneer of moral outrage; it leans on abusing the protagonist and women in general, so that Salander can turn the tables and vanquish a smidge the evil that men do.
Millions devoured the late Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy. The bestsellers led to the Swedishlanguage film adaptations starring Noomi Rapace. David Fincher’s bigger, bloatier 2011 English-language remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” MPAA rating: R (for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language) Running time: 1:57 featured Rooney Mara as Salander and Daniel Craig as the intrepid, irresistible investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist.
“The Girl in the Spider’s Web” movie comes from the first Salander novel written (by David Lagercrantz) after Larsson’s death. The script by director Alvarez, Steven Knight and Jay Basu amps up the narrative’s doomsday scenario. Hardly anybody has much to say in between tasings.
In Stockholm, Salander accepts an impossible mission to hack into a potentially world-ending defense program known as “Firefall.” It’s the property of the U.S. National Security Agency; a nasty collection of Russian thugs wants it, as does the visiting NSA hotshot played with a likable air by Lakeith Stanfield of “Atlanta” and “Sorry to Bother You.” The thugs, known as “spiders,” evolved out of a gang run by Salander’s late, hideously incestuous father. Salander’s sister, we’re told, killed herself three years ago. Yet we can’t quite believe that.
Blomkvist (a rather bland Scando-handsome Sverrir Gudnason) takes a secondary role in this outing, which suits the film’s action priorities. “Spider’s Web” sets up the cat-andmousing of Salander and Stanfield’s character, then complicates their relationship while the plot twists, sometimes intriguingly, often by way of lazy, silly matters of extreme convenience.
Like Denzel Washington in “Man on Fire,” Foy has a moppet to protect. In “Spider’s Web” the autistic savant son (Christopher Convery) of a disgraced NSA agent (Stephen Merchant) holds the key to the nuclear launch codes everybody’s after. Permit me to quote myself, will you? Eight years ago, when the Swedish-language “Dragon Tattoo” came out: “Its characters cannot fathom the depths to which humanity can sink to satisfy their sick, sick urges. Yet the entire enterprise depends on wallowing in those depths.” A year later, reviewing Fincher’s remake: “I confess to having had enough of this story, these characters, this peculiarly popular narrative blend of sexual violence and serial slaughter.”
A few hours after seeing “Spider’s Web”? I recall two details: the line “Kill the journalist,” and the perpetual, expansive white walls backing the interior scenes, just waiting for the script to splurch things up with a little blood.
Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy, the third actress to play her) takes on another mission in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web.”