Movie Review – The Girl in the Spider’s Web
Stieg Larsson died in 2004 but he left behind a series of books, which have been dubbed the Millennium series. It’s about an abused, asocial, computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander who teams up with a dedicated journalist named Mikael Blomkvist. Together, Lisbeth and Mikael solve crimes in their homeland of Sweden. Larsson only completed three books. Niels Arden Oplev adapted those books back in 2009 as a Swedish film series. In 2011, David Fincher directed an English-language version of the first book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which did fairly well and was even nominated for five Academy Awards, winning Best Achievement in Film Editing. There were plans to do two sequels but those plans were dropped.
In 2015, David Lagercrantz published more books based on Larsson’s two, original characters. The first is the basis for this film. Adapted by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises) and Jay Basu, the film feels less like a crime drama about reconciling the abuse against women by men. Instead, it feels more like a spy film that doesn’t rely on the physicality of its female protagonist unlike Atomic Blonde (2017) with Charlize Theron or Salt (2010) with Angelina Jolie. It more relies on her outsmarting her enemies and coming up with clever escapes.
Claire Foy (First Man and Unsane) stars as Lisbeth Salander. Foy is now the third actress to play this character. She doesn’t display great, physical fighting skills or that much marksmanship. But she could be a queer, Goth-girl version of James Bond, although she works for no government. She’s instead a vigilante who targets men who abuse women. Arguably, she could be akin to Batwoman. She does get to do some action, but it’s not to the level as an actual Batwoman or Batman story. It is more about her wits and her ability to play chess by way of anticipating other people’s moves and being a few steps ahead.
Sverrir Gudnason (Borg vs McEnroe) plays Mikael Blomkvist. Gudnason is now the third actor to play this character in less than 10 years time. That’s Spider-Man territory. Yet, of all the actors in this role, Gudnason feels the most insignificant. He’s at most just a damsel-in-distress, but that’s not a criticism. For years and decades, women have been put into that position. Here, it’s OK that Mikael is in that position because it doesn’t distract from Lisbeth’s powers and abilities.
Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049) co-stars as Camilla Salander, the sister of Lisbeth. It’s not clear if she’s older or younger, but she harbors great resentment because Lisbeth abandoned her with their abusive father. Her reaction though is that of a James Bond villain like Dr. No or something. It would have been nice if the filmmakers gave her a bit more depth or nuance, but she’s on par with a lot of other villains from lesser movies but it doesn’t bring things down. Speaking of Charlize Theron, Camilla is like Theron’s character in The Fate of the Furious (2017), but with way more emotional weight to her than Theron got in that 2017 flick.
There’s also some fairly good supporting performances from LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You and Atlanta) who plays Ed Needham, a NSA agent who tries to get to Lisbeth before the Swedish authority. Cameron Britton (Mindhunter and Stitchers) plays Plague, a fellow hacker and friend to Lisbeth. Claes Bang (The Square) plays Jan Holtser, the assassin and chief henchman helping Camilla with her evil plans. For Stanfield, it’s his first major action flick and it’s cool to see him fill that role nicely.
This film isn’t as visually dazzling as some of those aforementioned spy films or something like Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012) or even the recent Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) or Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015). There are parts of the film that drag a bit, but it’s an overall, sufficient time at the cinema.
Rated R for violence, language, some sexual content and nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 57 mins.