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Elijah Davis
Elijah Davis

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Millennium magazine welcomes Dag Svensson, a new journalist who is writing an exposé on prostitution and human trafficking in Sweden. Dag's girlfriend, Mia Bergman, is writing her doctoral thesis on sex trafficking. Dag is nearly finished with the story and is confronting those who will be exposed by the article. Dag and his girlfriend are about to leave on a holiday and ask Mikael Blomkvist to come to his apartment and collect some photographs. At the same time Dag also asks Blomkvist to inquire about someone called "Zala," who may have a connection to his present research. Blomkvist arrives at their apartment and finds the two lying dead. The murder weapon is tracked to Bjurman who is also deceased. Salander is the prime suspect, as her fingerprints happen to be on the gun. Salander tells Blomkvist that she did not kill anyone and that he needs to find the mysterious "Zala."

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Eager to clear Salander's name and realizing that she has hacked into his notebook computer, Blomkvist leaves her notes on his desktop; her replies point him to "Zala". Blomkvist confronts Gunnar Björck, a policeman on sick leave and one of the high-ranking abusers identified by Svensson and Johansson, who agrees to disclose information about Zala if Blomkvist leaves him out of Millennium's exposé. Miriam Wu, Salander's current sex partner, is taken in for questioning by the police. After her release, Paolo Roberto, Salander's former boxing coach, witnesses her being kidnapped into a van by Salander's earlier attacker, aided by a "blond giant". He follows them to a warehouse south of Nykvarn, where he attempts to fight the giant and manages to escape with Wu. The giant recovers and sets the warehouse on fire to destroy the evidence.

With information from Björck and Palmgren, Blomkvist pieces together the entire story: Zalachenko is a former Soviet defector whose very existence is kept classified by Säpo. Initially an intelligence source, Zalachenko began to traffic in sex slaves on the side. He became the partner of a 17-year-old girl who became pregnant with twins, Lisbeth and Camilla. Zalachenko was an itinerant father who habitually abused his partner, culminated in Lisbeth's deliberately setting his car alight while her father was in it. The authorities imprisoned Salander and declared her insane, since acknowledging Zalachenko's crimes would require them to divulge his existence. Niedermann had killed Svensson and Johansson on Zalachenko's orders; Bjurman, who was involved with Zalachenko, played a role in the murders and was killed to ensure his silence.

The girl is an enigma. She has a dragon tattoo, she plays with fire, she kicks a hornet's nest. These are not personality traits. We learn in the second movie based on a Stieg Larsson thriller a little more about her childhood, and her fiery relationship with her father. What we don't learn is why she is content to live the life of a hermit, requiring very little human company. Even when she lends a woman her apartment for a year and makes love with her the night she moves in, it seems more like a social gesture.

Noomi Rapace, who plays Lisbeth, seemed a supporting character last time, assisting a reporter as he investigated a family conspiracy with a connection to World War II. In The Girl Who Played With Fire Lisbeth takes the lead, uncovering a different family conspiracy, this time involving the Cold War. And where the earlier film was a mystery, this one's a police procedural -- or rather a police-free procedural, since the authorities are almost entirely useless in Larsson's dysfunctional Sweden. Oh, and you knew from the first film that Lisbeth plays with fire; here you find out why, though for the longest time it's a hulking blond guy you'll wish could be kept away from matches.

But the first picture's ferocity remains intact here, as do its fetishes regarding political corruption, sexual violence and the riveting Rapace, whose leather-clad bisexual feminist is as compelling as ever -- a battered-but-unbowed avenger for the art-house crowd, playing with fire both literally, and metaphorically. (Recommended)

Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, has made his living exposing the crooked and corrupt practices of establishment Swedish figures. So when a young journalist approaches him with a meticulously researched thesis about sex trafficking in Sweden and those in high office who abuse underage girls, Blomkvist immediately throws himself into the investigation.

This sequel to the gritty crime novel adaptation doubles down on the themes of the first film. Picking up some time after the events of Dragon Tattoo, it delves further into abuses of power within a corrupt system, and the deadly consequences for predominantly young, vulnerable girls that is enabled as a result. There's nothing in this film that wasn't in its predecessor, but it still manages to keep the plot intriguing and the action exciting. The performances are strong once again, even if you don't really learn that much new about any of these characters. The whole thing feels a little more rushed this time, focusing less on sinister atmosphere and more on getting through the various plot points. It isn't quite as eerie as the first film, but that's not to say it isn't still very watchable. Just a little too familiar to really stand out - a solid follow up, but not much more than that. 041b061a72


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