Seven years on from David Fincher’s Hollywood reboot of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and eleven years since the writer behind the Millennium Trilogy died, it seems slightly odd to see a new film about the adventures of vigilante hacker and all-round action hero Lisbeth Salander. At least it would be if you hadn’t heard that another Swedish writer had been commissioned to continue the series of novels. It’s been three years since David Lagercrantz shouldered the burden of coming up with a follow-up to Stieg Larsson’s Millennium cannon. And now, it seems, it’s time for the movie adaptation of his effort.
To be clear, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a total kickstart for the series. Sony has recast all the characters, hired an up-and-coming new director and even decided to take the franchise in a new direction. With a screenplay co-written by the film’s director Fede Álvarez (Don’t Breathe) and Peaky Blinders scribe Steven Knight, there’s still plenty of angst and anger driving our protagonist, but instead of being a top computer hacker with just a fondness for revenge and violence, Lisbeth is now pretty much a full-on Scandinavian James Bond.
Taking on the central role here is a big job. Rooney Mara was excellent in the previous instalment and Noomi Rapace was an absolute sensation in the original films. So good, in fact, that it launched her career. So Claire Foy (The Queen, First Man, Unsane) had work to do here as the new Lisbeth. Luckily for us, she’s one of the best ‘new’ actors out there and gives an absolutely powerhouse performance here. She’s mean, she’s moody, she’s intense – and yet there’s love, compassion and emotion behind it all. As Lisbeth, Foy convinces as a near-genius hacker as well as an incredible driver, fighter and all-round badass.
Not only is there a bit of Bond about the ‘new’ Lisbeth Salander, there’s also something of Batman about her too. She’s strong and silent, a whizz with gadgets (obviously) and spends half her time driving at 150 mph on black superbikes/cars. The two even share deeply traumatic childhoods, as well as a penchant for tight leather outfits.
The superhero idea permeates the film, with Salander seemingly capable of almost anything. Hacking into everything and able to control the world around her with just a laptop or phone, it’s rammed home as a real – very legitimate – type of superpower.
The plot sees Foy’s character accepting an almost impossible job: to steal a defence program capable of controlling any and all of the world’s nuclear warheads from the US government. Her employer? Regretful computer scientist Frans Balder (The Office and Logan’s Stephen Merchant), who wants to destroy his monstrous creation. Lisbeth manages to nab the program from the NSA, but it’s then subsequently stolen from her by a shady gang. In attempting to then nick it back, she riles up not only the US government, by the Swedish secret services, the murderous criminal enterprise in possession of the thing and even her psychopathic long-lost sister Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks, Bladerunner 2049). The result? Explosions, fights, car chases and piles of dead bodies.
Those of you that have read the books may be slightly disappointed to learn that Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) is just a peripheral character here, popping up only really to drive the plot forward. The relationship between the investigative journalist and our hero is hinted at, but not fully explored.
While never quite reaching the grim heights of the original Swedish movie trilogy, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a worthy sequel to Fincher’s 2011 film and an entertaining and imaginative adaptation of Lagercrantz’s book. Opting for a showier and more Bondesque approach may irk some of the source material’s more dedicated fans, but for cinema audiences? The film’s a ride and a half.
Lagercrantz published another book in the series, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, in 2017. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another seven-odd years to see that adapted for the big screen. If any of the film’s producers are reading this – don’t hang about. Sign Claire Foy back up now and get on with it.
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