Genre: Crime Drama and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.
Release Date: November 9th, 2018 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Fede Alvarez Actors: Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Sylvia Hoeks, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Merchant, Cameron Britton, Vicky Krieps, Andreja Pejic, Christopher Convery, Synnøve Macody Lund
hen cyberhacker-for-hire Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) accepts a job from former NSA program designer Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), she quickly finds herself entangled in a web of spies, assassins, and gangsters. After successfully acquiring Balder’s “Project Firefall,” a complex interface that allows its user to control online weapons systems across the globe, Salander is attacked in her home. Narrowly escaping with her life, but not her computer containing the top-secret program, Lisbeth contacts her old ally, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) for help. As the two attempt to locate Salander’s attackers, they’re drawn into a larger conspiracy. Soon on the run from the authorities, and with Balder’s son August (Christopher Convery) in tow, Salander and Blomkvist must protect their young ward while evading the Swedish Security Service, an American operative (Lakeith Stanfield) sent to retrieve the files, and a shadowy criminal organization that will stop at nothing to obtain Firefall for themselves.
As if to meet a quota, the film starts right in with nudity, child abuse, bizarre tools of sadomasochism, and literally dark locales – the kind in which beams of light seem to pierce through blankets of fog, yet it’s all indoors. It also features a title sequence full of inky, oily figures and imagery, like a gothic, bondage-oriented James Bond opener, which matches the 2011 remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Adult Lisbeth’s introduction also follows along with the series’ overarching themes, including violence against women and elaborate vigilante schemes.
Foy is excellent in the leading role, bringing to life a character that is highly formidable. She’s an expert computer hacker, which is a cinematic occupation for a tough female protagonist; and when she’s not breaking into governmental systems, she’s comfortable enough wielding cattle prods or Tasers or guns. And she even drives a motorcycle! Perhaps the greatest success in the scripting, however, is her independence; even when she’s outnumbered and overtaken, she doesn’t really need anyone else. For the most part, it’s actually Blomkvist who assumes the role of the damsel-in-distress; he’s the one who frequently requires rescuing.
Unfortunately, after several of Salander’s most breathtaking feats, she’s also written to make unforgivable mistakes. Technology is something of a villain here, in a world where dangerous people tend to control it for the sake of misusing it; and she manages to turn the tables on her opponents quite regularly by usurping their technology. Yet Lisbeth also makes amateurish errors, which is more of a sign of contrived writing than it is a deficiency in her character development. The worst offender is a scene that is reminiscent of the 2009 “Sherlock Holmes” movie, in which flashback snippets are utilized (almost directly afterwards) to show viewers how she pulled off a technological dupe – because the filmmakers are under the impression that it’s better to design the sequence to avoid audience interaction, as they’ll surely be too unintelligent to follow visual clues. Not only is this demeaning, it removes any sense of mystery.
Oddly, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” isn’t really much of a mystery anyway. Other than a couple of initial head-scratchers, such as the identity of the thugs who are trying to kill her, the collaboration between Lisbeth and Mikael to uncover a serial killer or solve a conspiracy is virtually nonexistent. In fact, there’s almost no investigative journalism whatsoever; his history as a reporter seems irrelevant.
Though he’s reduced to a background persona, filling in little details that she could have found on the internet herself, she’s consistently smart, adaptable, and resilient. Even when she’s supposed to be vulnerable, she maintains a ruggedness that never betrays fragility. As the picture progresses, her durability begins to resemble that of James Bond or the superspies of “Mission: Impossible,” leaning into the realm of fantasy (the villains end up seeking world domination – or its destruction); it’s thrilling at times and action-packed at others, but it abandons the utter brilliance of select moments of outsmarting rather than outgunning the enemies – such as when Lisbeth electrifies a staircase railing to stun an assailant from a safe distance, thereby avoiding a close-quarters confrontation.
– The Massie Twins