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The Girl Who Played With Fire

Same Tattoos, New Mystery

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist return for another gruesome adventure with The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second installment of the Millennium Trilogy that started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Niels Arden Oplev’s first installment in the trilogy was a tour de force, and an opening chapter to be reckoned with, but Daniel Alfredson (who also helmed the final film) lives up to the challenge.

The Girl Who Played with Fire picks up not long after we left Lisbeth and Mikael. Lisbeth sticks out like a sore thumb as she sunbathes in the tropics, while Mikael is hard at work on a new piece for Millennium magazine. A new journalist is brought in to uncover a sex-trafficking ring that involves many high-profile Swedes. However, as publication nears someone starts murdering those near the story. Soon Lisbeth is blamed for the killings and a manhunt is under way. Only Mikael believes in her innocence and despite her refusal to communicate with him, he sets out to uncover the truth and rid Lisbeth of blame.

While The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had suspense, action, and drama, The Girl Who Played with Fire starts to answer those nagging questions about Lisbeth’s past. Mikael is merely a supporting player in this picture as Lisbeth takes center stage and her past, and present, are slowly uncovered.

If there’s any criticism about the film it’s that it sometimes feels a bit clunky working Lisbeth into a personal story. Whereas the first film played like a hard and fast mystery, this one deals directly with its characters and how their past is affecting the present, and possibly the future. It gets off to a mildly slow start, but once it’s off the ground it doesn’t stop until the screen goes black.

Like any middle chapter of a trilogy it’s steeped in mysteries, questions and action. It begins and ends abruptly, making you thirst for the conclusion while asking where it can go from here. What’s truly impressive about the film is that it manages to peel back the layers of who Lisbeth is while still leaving her quite a mysterious character. It’s Lisbeth’s detachment from the real world that holds our attention but even as we learn why she is who she is, there still remains something untouched about her that’s wholly intriguing.

Stieg Larsson’s trilogy is a phenomenon for a reason — it’s original, suspenseful, and his characters are well rounded, able and worth our time. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo proved that they could be brought faithfully to the screen. The Girl Who Played with Fire proves the films are artistic achievements in themselves. We can only hope The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest ends the story as it began — with a bang. So far, it’s looking good.