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The Girl in the Spider’s Web – Movie Review

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The Girl in the Spider’s Web – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

It’s easy to see why filmmakers are compelled to continue making films involving Swedish punk hacker Lisbeth Salander. There is a uniqueness to the character and the possibility of some twisty-turny plots. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the second attempt to create an American adaptation of Salander, albeit taking inspiration from the fourth book in the series written by a new author and not original creator Stieg Larsson. It’s a curious decision, but one that makes sense as it gives director Fede Alvarez more freedom to put his own stamp of the movie. The result, however, ends up being a rather standard thriller with only a few standout moments. It is very much in the vein of an airport paperback and doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression.

The story follows a lot of the expected beats, which dilutes the excitement a little bit. The appeal for Alvarez lies mainly in crafting some action scenes and he does a good job in that area. It’s in those sequences, when the characters stop talking and typing, that the energy switches on a bit. There’s a fun car chase through the snowy streets of Stockholm, a fight in a bathroom and Salander fleeing via motorcycle. As seen in his previous films, Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe, Alvarez has a real understanding of how to use space. Director of photography Pedro Luque crafts some amazing shots, although it’s difficult to make Sweden under a blanket of snow look unappealing.

The actual mystery driving the plot is largely uninteresting, mostly because there aren’t many surprises. It’s obvious who the culprits are and the antagonists themselves are not particularly compelling, either. There are many scenes of characters sitting behind screens and typing code quickly, which admittedly is hard to make cinematic. The decision was also made to pair Salander up with a child for a chunk of the runtime, so there are the usual moments of bonding, but they don’t feel genuine. Lakeith Stanfield has a good character with his NSA agent and he almost could have used more screentime. He certainly gets more to do than Vicky Krieps, who mostly exists to play journalist Mikael Blomkvist’s sorta-girlfriend. After her breakthrough role in Phantom Thread, this especially seems like a waste.

Claire Foy brings her own edge to Lisbeth Salander and provides a solid performance, especially during the emotional scenes. While it is tricky to entirely erase Rooney Mara’s portrayal from one’s mind, Foy understands why the character has proven popular on the page and the screen. One of her best scenes is early on when she makes a spectacular entrance in icy makeup and embarrasses a woman beater. The rest of The Girl in the Spider’s Web could used more moments like that and less of her hacking and typing away. Nonetheless, Foy proves a worthy holder of the Salander baton and taser.

Fede Alvarez’s careful direction and Claire Foy’s performance do a lot to elevate a fairly routine and obvious screenplay that checks off the thriller boxes. While adapting David Lagercrantz’s book, the film also seems aware it’s sort of following up David Fincher’s own foray into the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo world. The movie even includes its own stylized opening titles, albeit one that borrows more from Skyfall than the “Immigrant Song”-themed credits that opened Fincher’s film. As a whole, there’s not a lot that stands out about The Girl in the Spider’s Web and despite the pedigree of its source material, it blends in with many thrillers of its ilk.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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