Lis­beth goes all Bond-lite

The Sunday Independent - - SUNDAY MAGAZINE - | The Hollywood Re­porter

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.

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