Most of the time if I feel lukewarm about an initial film I still give the sequel a watch. This does not always pay off, but in some instances the sequel is better than the original. In many ways The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a superior film to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). Despite knowing the original remake starring Mara Rooney and Daniel Craig was part of a trilogy I never expected another film. Something felt off as I watched the feature alongside my friend. The Girl in the Spider’s Web made me feel like the film was part of a franchise and wonder what story they planned on focusing on next. The reboot is one of the smarter and edgier ways to reinvent a potential franchise that never managed to get off the ground.
In this reboot our focus once more is on Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy). While she agrees to take on a seemingly impossible mission, she finds herself mission infiltrated by spies, cyber criminals and corrupt government officials. Once she realizes the position her mission has put her in she reaches out to various colleagues, including Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) to help her discover who is behind the theft of a computer program that could potentially end the world if it ends up in the wrong hands. On the way to discovering the truth, Salander realizes that she cannot out run her past forever.
Foy’s performance as Swedish hacker Salander is outstanding. She’s stoic when she needs to be but cares deeply when those she cares about become involved. When she moves someone into her circle she immediately defends them even if it means sacrificing herself. This is among one of the many reasons I find her somewhat relatable. I also relate to her not wanting to ask for help from anyone and that when she does those around her knows she truly needs the assistance. While she is capable of handling each scenario herself, she enlists various men in her life around her to help her put the puzzle pieces back together solving the dilemma. Seeing this degree of female empowerment is refreshing. A female leading a team is almost unheard of which makes viewing such all the more gratifying female performances I’ve seen this year in an action film. The dialogue and wit the writers give this character make Foy’s performance even stronger.
Gudnason’s performance is one I enjoyed overall, but leaves me wanting something more. I’m not entirely sure what changes could occur though because his stoicism is one of the characteristics that play well into the relationship of Blomkvist and Salander in the first place. Stephen Merchant is also a joy to watch in the role of Frans Balder. His character transitions us into a world with so many twists and turns we are not sure who to trust. One of the stand performances yet again goes to Lakeith Stanfield who portrays Edwin Needham. Stanfield’s character makes us play both sides. We understand his desire to have what he wants, but simultaneously not if that comes at a cost to Salander or Balder. While there’s a lack of comedic relief within the film he manages to do so in a subtle way that brings a smile to our face when he appears on the screen. I’d also be remiss if I did not take a moment to praise the acting of Christopher Convery who plays Balder’s son, August Balder. The moment he enters the picture we all immediately want to protect him. A sentiment echoed from the opening sequence of the feature.
Despite the grizzly nature of Salander’s past the film is an important one for women. It’s important for women to see they can get out of situations that they have endured for a short time or a long stance. No matter what a way out exists. While I’m not justifying anyone taking matters into their own hands in the unorthodox ways Lisbeth does and did in the original remake, she is a character that provides strength for women who cannot muster that strength for themselves. Salander brings hope to women who do not have a voice. She reminds women that those of all ages deserve a listening ear. She reminds women to stand up for themselves even at moments they think they cannot. Most importantly though, Lisbeth reminds a woman that her voice will be heard and that sometimes that female voice has more merit than that of a man.
Fede Alvarez’s direction is some of the best I’ve seen this year. His execution is a stunning combination of atmosphere and shots that create tension around every corner making me love living through Lisbeth’s eyes. My absolute favorite moment within the film involves Lisbeth attempting to sober up after a situation she could unfortunately gain control of in time. The camera allows us to stumble with her. We attain the victory of making it to the car with her. In many ways we her victories are our victories. Her struggles are our struggles. Although in many ways she is the ultimate female anti-hero, at the end of the day we want Lisbeth to succeed because she is the lesser of evils making it truly difficult to see her as anything but the hero.
Although I do not have many complaints with The Girl in the Spider’s Web, I do have one major complaint. I wish the trailers would have left out key details and all the allusions to pivotal scenes within the film. I hate when trailers give away full blown scenes and that I saw this full trailer at every turn this year. Almost every film I saw in theaters this year shoved Lisbeth Salander in my face and made me feel like I could recite lines from one particular scene within the feature. The film also played certain character cards too early within the film although it felt necessary to introduce them. Most of the puzzle pieces fell together with ease, others came as a surprise making me wish more surprises were throughout the film. By leaving out important key plot points and entire scenes from trailers viewed umpteenth times would dissolve that problem.
Overall, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is an intriguing tale that deserves at least one viewing. Salander is in good hands with Alvarez’s direction. The film keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with action packed sequences and wondering what is around every corner Lisbeth takes on her motorcycle. Hopefully the film performs well enough at the box office this weekend so we can see the Lisbeth that Alvarez envisions become a reality instead of just another female character that seemingly could not carry her own narrative.