‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ continues the story of the vigilante hacker Lisbeth Salander, now played by a completely transformed Claire Foy (First Man, The Crown), as her past catches up with her in her latest assignment that deals with a decryption program that can access all the nuclear weapons in the world.
There is an outrageousness in ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ that brings it to the level of James Bond, an equal mix of Pierce Brosnan’s slickness and Daniel Craig’s grit and brutality. Unlike the previous ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’ films (the original by Niels Arden Orlev with Noomi Rapace, and the American version of David Fincher with Rooney Mara), this story feels less personal and intimate even when it’s directly related to Lisbeth Salander’s past.
The plot of the original films felt manageable and contained while this film feels overwhelmingly massive and global. Lisbeth Salander is turned from a vigilante with amazing hacking skills into a super-spy in the same level of Jason Bourne and James Bond. It’s a story that seems out of place for the withdrawn and tempestuous Salander. Here, she is up against a criminal organization and chased down not just by the Swedish government but by an American NSA agent as well.
The story also feels bogged down by the inclusion of journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Sverrir Gudnason), who played such a strong part in the first films, but is somehow turned into an awkward sidekick with half-hearted sexual tension that never really goes anywhere.
‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ does boast amazing action sequences that expands Claire Foy’s already magnificent set of onscreen skills, and will present her to a more varied reach of roles because of it. It’s hard-hitting and fast-paced when needs to be that the comparisons to Jason Bourne and James Bond are deliberate. The movie also shows some very interesting (and frightening) use of hacking know-how to get through some of the more stickier situations Lisbeth Salander finds herself in.
And while all the other characters barely register as a whole, Claire Foy imbues the vigilante with the character’s trademark pain and anger. She’s a cold, calculated force of nature. She’s merciless and vicious when she has to be and this is used to full effect when Lisbeth Salander faces her past demons. Foy allows moments of vulnerability that humanizes the vigilante and it’s quite engaging onscreen.
But with all the actions and thrills and suspense, the film is severely lacking in heart. It takes for granted that we still remember the character or have read the books that it jumps into moments and scenes that should have emotional resonance but falls flat. I’ve actually read the books written by Stieg Larsson (‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ is written by David Lagercrantz based on the same characters) and saw the two versions of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ but it has been so long since that I feel detached from the narrative’s emotional base.
The movie seems more interested to get us straight into the mystery and suspense without laying the foundations for the emotional finale that it has intended for Lisbeth Salander and the audience watching.
‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ has all the makings of a potential franchise film but with this first outing, it doesn’t lay the groundwork for a solid emotional base to invest in. It boasts great action sequences and that’s always a bonus, but not even Claire Foy’s transformative performance will bring in people into the cinema for a character they might not remember to care for.
The Girl in the Spider's Web opens in cinemas Wednesday, November 21, 2018.