ALL CAUGHT UP!

IN ‘THE GIRL IN THE SPI­DER’S WEB,’ EV­ERY­ONE’S FAVOURITE STOCK­HOLM HACKER HAS MOR­PHED INTO A BLANDER AC­TION HERO, SAYS THE FILM IS BASED ON THE FOURTH NOVEL IN THE SE­RIES

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - FILMS - Jake Coyle/As­so­ci­ated Press

When di­rec­tor Fede Al­varez chose Claire Foy to star in the lat­est ilm in the “Girl with the Dragon Tat­too” se­ries, he had no doubt the 34-year-old ac­tress would eas­ily trans­form her­self into the in­trepid cold-as-ice hacker Lis­beth Sa­lan­der.

Af­ter all, the Bri­tish ac­tress has ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing a fear­less woman with ice run­ning through her veins when needed — Queen Eliz­a­beth II.

“I saw ‘The Crown’ one day and I was like, ‘That’s it, this is all Lis­beth,’ be­cause as crazy as that sounds, there is so much in com­mon with the chal­lenges of play­ing some­one like Lis­beth or Eliz­a­beth,” Al­varez said in a re­cent tele­phone in­ter­view from Rome.

Fresh oͿ her Emmy-win­ning turn as the Bri­tish monarch on Netlix’s pop­u­lar drama, Foy is tack­ling one of the hero­ines of mod­ern crime ic­tion — Sa­lan­der, a Swedish hacker — in “The Girl In The Spi­der’s Web.”

The ilm fol­lows Sa­lan­der as she is hired to hack into a de­fense pro­gramme that can con­trol the codes for the world’s nu­clear weapons.

The role — pre­vi­ously played by Noomi Ra­pace and Rooney Mara — rep­re­sents a de­par­ture for Foy, al­low­ing the ac­tress to show­case a diͿer­ent, darker side.

But the Uruguayan di­rec­tor says her re­gal role pre­pared her well.

“They are very sim­i­lar char­ac­ters,” Al­varez said.

“The queen is never al­lowed to show she’s an­gry or sad, al­ways keep­ing a straight face in front of very dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions ... and Lis­beth doesn’t al­low her­self to show her true emo­tions — she’s push­ing those emo­tions deep in­side her.”

“Spi­der’s Web” is based on a novel by David Lager­crantz, who was cho­sen to con­tinue the so­called “Mil­len­nium” se­ries be­gun by the late Stieg Lars­son.

The film has been met with mixed re­views, with in­dus­try mag­a­zine Va­ri­ety say­ing fans are likely to be dis­ap­pointed with the way Sa­lan­der is por­trayed.

“The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web ...is more vested in iery ex­ter­nal ex­plo­sions than in­ter­nal pain, re­duc­ing Sa­lan­der to a quirky Bat­girl-like ig­ure, soft-ped­al­ing her fem­i­nism, prac­ti­cally elim­i­nat­ing her queer­ness, and toss­ing in an Amer­i­can so the US can save the world,” it said.

Al­varez, who di­rected the 2016 hit thriller “Don’t Breathe,” said that as with any novel, it was di΀cult to adapt Lager­crantz’s work for the big screen and still re­main faith­ful to the plot.

“You have to sac­ri­ice a lot of things — oth­er­wise, it would be an eight-hour movie,” he said.

He said he used the screen­play writ­ten by Steven Knight (“Peaky Blin­ders”) and Jay Basu, and adapted it to make it more per­sonal.

“Ba­si­cally it was re­ally mak­ing it about se­cret and shame, al­ways about the fam­ily, what­ever the story, as big as it is, even if the stakes are the world — it al­ways has to be about your­self, some­thing very close to the main char­ac­ter,” he said. “It’s also about a sin, some­thing they have com­mit­ted and they have to atone for.”

In the case of Sa­lan­der, the back­story con­cerns her es­tranged sis­ter Camilla — played by Dutch ac­tress Sylvia Hoeks (“Blade Run­ner 2049”) — who she hasn’t seen since she es­caped their abu­sive fa­ther, a Rus­sian crime lord.

Hoeks said the movie was shot just as the #MeToo move­ment erupted and was im­pacted by the raft of al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual abuse that sur­faced at the time.

“We dis­cussed it — it was a very hot topic,” she said. “We didn’t re­ally change the script but for me, it was like the story and re­al­ity went hand-in-hand all of a sud­den.”

FILM RE­VIEW

No, “The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web” isn’t a Spi­der-man spinoͿ about a young woman en­snarled by Pe­ter Parker. But you’d be for­given for think­ing the lat­est, re­vamped it­er­a­tion of Stieg Lars­son’s thrillers has some su­per­hero DNA.

This, Lis­beth Sa­lan­der’s third big-screen in­car­na­tion in nine years, has mor­phed the aveng­ing Stock­holm hacker into a blander ac­tion hero, com­plete with a Bat­man-and-Robin-like band of white across her eyes. Fol­low­ing the spikier Swedish tril­ogy, with Noomi Ra­pace, and David Fincher’s men­ac­ing and murky “The Girl With the Dragon Tat­too,” with Rooney Mara, we can al­most pal­pa­bly feel Lis­beth (Claire Foy this time) be­ing lured out of the shad­ows and to­ward a more main­stream movie realm. In this lat­est chap­ter, Lis­beth strives, like a Scan­di­na­vian 007, to keep a world-threat­en­ing atomic weapons pro­gram dubbed “Fire­fall” out of the wrong hands. (Are there any right ones?)

“The Girl in the Spi­der ’s Web,” di­rected by Uruguayan-born Fede Al­varez (“Don’t Breathe,” 2013’s “Evil Dead” re­boot), smooths away some of the rough edges of a saga pred­i­cated on them, re­sult­ing in a com­pe­tent but in­dis­tin­guish­able thriller. Lis­beth, a volatile cy­ber­punk vig­i­lante pro­pelled by her own demons of abuse, re­mains a great char­ac­ter in search of a de­cent plot.

It’s a shame, too, be­cause a fear­some woman met­ing out jus­tice for detestable men is, well, kind of ap­pro­pri­ate right now. In the ilm’s irst scene - the most comic book-like of them all - Elis­a­beth strings up an oͿend­ing hus­band like a ish while gut­ting his bank ac­count and, with a few clicks, trans­fer­ring his sav­ings to his vic­tim­ized wife. Bat­man could do no bet­ter.

Such ex­changes, though, quickly re­cede in fa­vor of a larger con­spir­acy that ropes in the NSA (Lakethe Stanield plays an agent), a Rus­sian gang called the Spi­ders (with Claus Bang) and the Swedish au­thor­i­ties. It be­gins when Slan­der is ap­proached by a for­mer NSA agent (Stephen Mer­chant) who built the soft­ware pro­gram but who now (only now?) is con­cerned that the abil­ity to launch ev­ery nu­clear weapon on the planet might ac­tu­ally be a bad idea.

Soon, all man­ner of bad guys are af­ter him, his young but bril­liant son (Christo­pher Con­vey) and Slan­der. The in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Michael Block­i­est (Sev­erer Gun­der­son in the part pre­vi­ously Daniel Craig and Michael Ne­vis) is around at times but makes lit­tle of an im­pres­sion.

The story also con­nects; we sense, some­how to Slan­der ’s own past, her in­ces­tu­ous fa­ther and a sis­ter be­lieved to have died years ago. Snip­pets of lash­backs give a win­dow into the scars be­neath Slan­der ’s tat­toos, while de rigueur ac­tion set pieces pro­pel the movie slowly along, as if it for­got to pick up a sense of sus­pense along the way. (In one novel twist, Slan­der, in mid-car chase, hacks into the other ve­hi­cle and takes con­trol of it. The so-called In­ter­net of Things may sound the death knell for the pro­longed get­away.)

But as com­pelling as Foy is, she’s also miss­ing a qual­ity that any Elis­a­beth ought to have, and it has noth­ing to do with shed­ding the prim­ness of her Queen Eliz­a­beth II for Slan­der’s jet-black hair and pierc­ing. The great­est ten­sion in Lars­son’s “Mil­len­nium” se­ries is how Slan­der so bris­tles with un­ease in the world, even while she ex­pertly ma­nip­u­lates ev­ery­thing in it. No such conlict is found in “The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web,” a com­mon­place thriller for an un­com­mon hero­ine.

Sylvia Hoeks, (left), Sver­rir Gud­na­son, Claire Foy, Fede Al­varez and Syn­nove Ma­cody Lund.

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