Lisbeth Salander is back. The lead character in the Millennium film and novel series, she’s the leather-clad computer hacker with a large tattoo of a dragon on her back, an eidetic memory, and, if you are a movie fan, an ever switching identity. The look—dyed black hair, body piercings—hasn’t changed but the actresses playing her have.
Noomi Rapace became famous playing her in the Swedish franchise and Rooney Mara was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress as Salander in 2011’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Now another face takes on the role. In “The Girl In The Spider’s Web” Clair Foy trades the tiaras and trinkets of “The Crown” for cyber criminals and car chases.
Since we’ve seen her last Salander has been exacting a very specific kind of revenge. Using her hacking skills and some other, more physical life hacks, she, as a self-styled righter-of-wrongs, evens the score between cheating husbands and their wives.
Her life is thrown into chaos when she gets a call from her handler. “There is a client asking for the impossible. Interested?” Of course she is. It’s ex-NSA employee Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) who created a power program called Firefall. It can’t be reproduced, only be moved. Balder has lost control of it and wants it back. In the wrong hands a single user on the single computer could “be imbued with Godlike powers.”
She agrees and easily steals the program but when she misses the drop off Balder thinks she’s going rogue and alerts law enforcement. Her involvement also attracts the attention of The Spiders, a terror group who want the program and want her out of the picture. With an NSA agent Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield) and journalist—and former Salander love interest—Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) on the case things get complicated, especially when it turns out the big bad villain may have a direct link to Salander’s troubled past.
“The Girl In The Spider’s Web” is a thriller set to a slow simmer. The action comes in bursts, a car chase or an exploding building, followed by lots of atmosphere and shots of Salander’s brooding face. The Millennium film franchise are dark thrillers with overtones of murder, pedophilia, incest and even self surgery and while all those elements are on display here the tone of the film feels different than the previous films.
Set in Sweden, with all the trappings of an icy Nordic noir, the new film feels more American in its style. Salander is a little too much like James Bond and not enough like Elizabeth Salander. Foy is up to the task but the character, once edgy and daring, has become a Ducati-straddling superhero. In addition to being a world-class hacker she’s also a skilled hand-to-hand combat artist with a web of icy blonde girlfriends to do her bidding and a way with a Taser. But sometimes she’s a little too capable. An escape on a bridge works simply because it has too. Not because it makes sense. Her operations are timed with split second precision. There’s no real sense of danger, just boilerplate thrills. Things blow up real good but by the tenth time Salander has too easily and conveniently tamed an out-of-control situation you wonder why she’s wearing black leather and not spandex and a cape.
And don’t get me started on Blomkvist. Once a layered interesting character, he’s there simply because he’s always been there.
“The Girl In The Spider’s Web” is a serviceable action thriller with enough action to entertain the eye but too many twists and turns coupled with drab characters it feels generic when it should make your heart race.