The Girl Who Played With Fire (3 stars)

The Girl Who Played With Fire

(15) 129min

Since the UK release of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo last summer, it’s fair to say the cult surrounding the late Stieg Larsson’s ‘Millennium’ books – of which Dragon Tattoo was the first in the trilogy – went over ground. Few films will ever stand up to such hype, including The Girl Who Played With Fire. Yet it’s a credit to the film that it evokes the same sense of menace and mystery as its predecessor. In particular, given Swedish director Daniel Alfredson (brother of Tomas, who directed the sublime 2008 vampire film Let The Right One In) was drafted in to replace previous helmer Niels Arden Oplev, a transition that appears nigh-on seamless.

The story picks up a year after Dragon Tattoo ended. Antisocial researcher-cum-hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has been travelling the world, while keeping an eye on her corrupt guardian, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson), who she previously entrapped with video evidence when he raped her. Meanwhile, Millennium magazine’s investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is about to blow open a story about human trafficking.

Invariably, their lives intertwine when Bjurman turns up dead. Accused of murder, Salander goes on the run while Blomkvist sets out to prove her innocence. For some, that Larsson’s plot keeps them apart for much of the film may be a disappointment, particularly given the chemistry that Rapace and Nyqvist had in Dragon Tattoo. It doesn’t help either that the second book’s major revelation – that Salander torched her brutish father when she was 12 – was already referred to in the first film.

Yet niggles aside, this instalment is still tremendously engrossing, even if you’re left with a slight feeling that Alfredon’s film is arguably a set-up for the more dramatic events of the final episode The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (due in November). Once again boasting a remarkable central turn from Rapace, she leaves newcomer Rooney Mara, cast as Salander in the forthcoming Hollywood remake, with much to live up to.

General release, Fri 27 Aug.

The Girl Who Played with Fire

  • 3 stars
  • 2009
  • Sweden
  • 2h 9min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Daniel Alfredson
  • Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace

With Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) accused of murder, Blomkvist (Nyqvist) works to find out who is really guilty. Kept apart for most of the film, the duo's chemistry isn't given a chance to shine; yet the film is nonetheless engrossing, even if its major revelation is no real surprise.