Even if you passed over the fact that this Lisbeth Salander (who has morphed from clever hacker into Modesty Blaise) isn’t the same character as the three Stieg Larsson books, the real problem with The Girl in the Spider’s Web is that it’s badly directed (by Uruguayan, Fede Alvarez who co-wrote the script).
The story’s fine. David Lagercrantz’s replacement of Stieg Larsson maintained the latter’s on-going theme of deep state complicity in high crimes. His is an intricate plot that ostensibly pits the Swedish secret service (Vicky Krieps from The Phantom Thread) against the US secret service (Lakeith Stanfield), both vying to recover a stolen code that can hack into the world’s nuclear missile fleet. But at a deeper level, the enemy combatants are Salander v her ‘long dead’ sister (Sylvia Hoeks from Blade Runner 2049).
Not unlike 007 v his ‘long dead’ brother, Blofeld! It’s one of many thefts from the Bond franchise (even including a version of the introductory titles). The theft however stops short of Sam Mendes’ terrific action sequence imagination. In The Girl…, the action sequences and fights (when you can make out what’s going on in this horribly badly lit movie) are brief and perfunctory. In movies of this genre, these are the moments when the adrenaline factor needs to be turned up to the max. No such luck.
Nor does Tatiana Riegel’s muddy editing help. There are several set-piece suspense incidents (a blinded assassin wandering through a wintry forest; Lisbeth lost in a fog of knock-out gas etc.) which end even before we get invested in the tension of the moment.
Director Alvarez also couldn’t be bothered to explain the story’s multiple happy coincidences (like the ex-hacker turned US Secret Agent who, thankfully is also an awesome marksman with the ability to shoot through walls)
Claire Foy is OK as Salander. She wears a sour scowl for all of the story, and certainly commits herself to the brute physicality of the role. But she’s never really convincing. Both Rooney Mara and Noomi Rapace (earlier iterations of Lisbeth) had an earthy (bi) sexuality that invested their characters with a compelling edginess. Foy remains coyly prissy…more concerned with covering up her body than she is with uncovering crime.
But, hey, on a cold, dark afternoon, with the winds of Brexit and Trump beating down our doors, this is an adequate enough diversion
THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB. Dir: Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe). With: Claire Foy (The Crown, First Man) Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049), Stephen Merchant, Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread). Editor: Tatiana Riegel (I, Tonya); Cinematographer: Pedro Luque (Look Away): Production Designer: Eve Stewart (The Danish Girl)