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
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 dicult 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.”
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.