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The Girl In The Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story

by Robert Nesti
EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor
Friday Nov 9, 2018
'he Girl In The Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story'
'he Girl In The Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story'  

It has been seven years since Lisbeth Salander appeared on the screen. That was in David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," the Hollywood adaptation of the first book in Swedish writer Stieg Larsson's popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series with Rooney Mara as a queer punker with expert hacking skills and plenty of issues. She's a bit of a cyber-super hero with a perpetual frown that Mara brought a fierce toughness to, and the film itself was a chilling adaptation of a story that had already been filmed (quite well) in Sweden in 2009 by Niels Arden Oplev that made a star of Noomi Rapace. (They went on to film two more of the books in the series.)

In the interim Larsson died, but his series went on when author David Lagercrantz took over the series with "The Girl in the Spider's Web," which Hollywood picked up with a new director (Fede Alvarez, "Don't Breathe") and a new actress (Claire Foy) in hopes of building a franchise around this grimly determined character — a queer, female Bourne. Whether they succeed or not remains to be seen, but "The Girl in the Spider Web" feels more like something that would be right at home on Amazon with its by-the-numbers story of international espionage. Sure, the unrelenting Lisbeth's mission to avenge violence against women is present in a brief prologue where she catches a vicious sexual abuser, a captain of Swedish industry, and humiliates him; but the main narrative is right out of any action movie playbook with a small difference.

That difference comes with the emergence of a villain in the person of Lisbeth's sister, an icy blonde who is a protégée of their loathsome dad. As a teen, Lisbeth escaped his nasty grip in a thrilling escape seen in a flashback, but her freedom comes to haunt her as their sibling rivalry comes to take over her present. This happens with a battle over the ownership of a computer program that can give control of nuclear bombs to whoever can crack its enigmatic password. Her sister heads a particularly ugly team of international terrorists who demonstrate their viciousness in a shocking CGI visual of the tortures they are capable of. She also makes a striking visual presence dressed in red against the snowy white Swedish locales. If only this plot thread had as much definition.

In her quest to protect the program — called FireFall — Lisbeth gets an unexpected ally in Lakeith Stanfield, a former hacker now with the U.S. government who is out to also protect the program. He heads to Sweden when he discovers Lisbeth's hack, then tracks her down. His presence keeps the plot moving, but little else and makes for a waste of Stanfield's talents. Not surprisingly he teams up with Lisbeth for the final confrontation, a pitched battle at Lisbeth's childhood home, that is smoothly shot and edited, but has a been-there, done-that quality. What makes Lisbeth an intriguing character is her anti-social quirkiness and her personal determination to avenge male power; here that is mitigated by her own daddy issues and a story that would be a better fit for a Bourne film.

That said, Alvarez directs with sleek efficiency, texturing the icy landscapes of Stockholm and its vicinities into his quick-moving drama. For her part, Foy imbues Lisbeth with more vulnerability than Mara did in a capable performance, but one that never quite cracks her character's brooding exterior. She's an avenger against male patriarchy, but here is thrust in a realpolitik scenario that makes her seem like another international gun-for-hire. Perhaps it will pay off and the film will spark a franchise and, hopefully, a less generic sequel.

The Girl in the Spider's Web

Fired from the National Security Agency, Frans Balder recruits hacker Lisbeth Salander to steal FireWall, a computer program that can access codes for nuclear weapons worldwide. The download soon draws attention from an NSA agent who traces the activity to Stockholm. Further problems arise when Russian thugs take Lisbeth's laptop and kidnap a math whiz who can make FireWall work. Now, Lisbeth and an unlikely ally must race against time to save the boy and recover the codes to avert disaster.


Runtime :: 117 mins
Release Date :: Nov 09, 2018
Language :: Silent
Country :: United States

Robert Nesti can be reached at rnesti@edgemedianetwork.com.


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