Film review – The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009)

9 October 2010
The Girl Who Played with Fire: Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace)

Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace)

The adaptation of the second novel in Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” once again sees investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and troubled hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) exposing misogyny-based crime. This time the crime is a sex-trafficking ring with links to the former Soviet regime and Lisbeth’s past. There is also a “wrong person” narrative with Lisbeth on the run after being accused of multiple murders that Mikael is convinced she is not guilty of.

This second film has lost the telemovie feel of the first film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and it’s a slicker and tenser film, with a very cinematic car chase and a great fight scene. However, it’s also lost some of the first film’s icy edginess and sophistication, taking the series more into pulp fiction territory with too much coincidence and improbability creeping into the narrative. Lisbeth is often reduced to being driven by revenge and one of the characters, who resembles a Terminator/James Bond-type villain, is distractingly out-of-place.

Nevertheless, this is an engaging thriller with a strong and empowered female lead, and an interesting critique of how poorly government agencies respond to sexual abuse and domestic violence cases.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 364, 2010

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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Film review – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

28 March 2010

Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace)

The disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) agrees to investigate the 40-year-old case of a missing teenage girl. The girl’s uncle, who approaches Mikael to take the case, is the former CEO of a wealthy group of companies and head of a large dysfunctional family, all of who are under suspicion. Mikael is assisted by the mysterious Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a young women with a punk attitude, expertise in cyber-espionage and problems of her own.

This Swedish film noir would perhaps be better described as a film blanc due to the crisp, white, Nordic light that fills many scenes. It’s the first part of a trilogy based on Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” of crime novels, which may have worked better as a television mini-series. Lisbeth’s back-story in particular feels unnecessarily nasty and prolonged despite having apparent connections to parts two and three.

Still, this is an intriguing and sometimes disturbing mystery that works reasonably well as a stand-alone film. The original Swedish name for the novel translates directly into English as Men That Hate Women, which reveals much about the film’s misogynistic and sexually violent themes that are linked to religious and ideological fanaticism.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 350, 2010

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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Film review – Let the Right One In (2008)

3 March 2009
Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson)

Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson)

Anybody who was depressed, bored or annoyed at the chaste blandness of Twilight is going to have their faith restored in the power of vampire mythology when they see the intriguing Swedish horror drama Let the Right One In. Directed by Tomas Alfredson and based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, Let the Right One In is about the friendship between Oskar, a shy and bullied twelve-year-old boy, and Eli, the strange girl who moves into the same apartment block as Oskar in suburban Stockholm. It is reminiscent of Brian de Palma’s classic Carrie and the underrated Canadian werewolf film Ginger Snaps but far more understated than both. This beautiful film balances brief moments of horror with a genuinely touching story about first love and coming of age.

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DVD review – Show Me Love (1998), Region 4, Madman

27 December 2005

It is about time that Swedish director Lukas Moodysson’s (Together, Lilja 4-ever) 1998 feature début (originally titled Fucking Åmål) gets an Australian DVD release. With so much average independent American cinema claiming to explore the secret lives of modern teenagers, Show Me Love refreshingly avoids the usual pitfalls of being sensationalist (Larry Clarke’s films), highly contrived (Thirteen) or romanticising angst (Thumbsucker).

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