“The Girl in the Spider’s Web” does for Lisbeth Salander what “Jason Bourne” did for the Bourne franchise; and that's not a compliment. This toothless, time-turner deviates drastically from the gut wrenching and disturbing investigative thrill ride of previous adaptations like David Fincher's 2011 adaptation or the Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 Swedish original. What remains is a re-origin story with the purpose to expand the audience and to curb Salandar into a Scandi-Noir's female hacker super-heroine.
Vigilante Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) continues to bring her unique brand of justice upon men who hurt women in her home town of Stockholm. An enticing assignment requires her to steal a satellite decryption device that turns your PC into a single player nuclear launch system. Once she successfully acquires the tool she becomes the target of U.S National Security Agency (NSA) operatives, local law enforcement and a ruthless band of gangland marauders called the "Spiders" with sinewy connections to her past.
After the passing of Stieg Larsson (author of the original Tattoo trilogy) author David Lagercrantz has been selected as the architect for Lisbeth's future. The screenwriters Jay Basu, director Fede Alvarez and Steven Knight (Taboo, Eastern Promises, Locke), adapting Lagercrantz's novel, have developed a template for how to tell a "Tattoo" tale for the screen. It introduces the film with traumatic flashbacks, it reinforces institutional corruption, Blomqvist (this time played with McDreamy looks and mannequin delivery from Sverrir Gudnason) is still writing so infrequently for any world renowned journalist. There’s even the continuation of a Bond style opener, that cheaply imitates the gloriously perverse title sequence underscored by the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score - and Karen O “Immigrant Song” cover from Fincher's 2011 adaptation. It has the precision and the emptiness of colour by number artwork.
Director Fede Alvarez formally elevates the lifeless material staging his camera like he’s manipulating cello. Dynamic unexpected strums of movement that make every location in the film feel like a maximum security prison. The latest iteration of Lisbeth Salander has been significantly sanitised. Claire Foy’s vision of the character fashions the haircut, the intense slouching and stoically perching in well-lit round windows. She jettisons Lisbeth's complicated sexual power and appropriately intense and terrifying sexual punishments. Perhaps jumping from the Queen Elizabeth into a ferociously large strap on was a bridge too far.
Supporting performances from Stephen Merchant, who flexes his dramatic chops, is probably the highlight of the entire film. For a telegraph pole of a man better known for looking as funny as he is as a writer and creator, he seems aware that the camera is gauging every electrical impulse from his eyes. Lakeith Stanfield brings a necessary outsider energy that disrupts the isolationist overtones of the genre’s previous three (four) entries. Sylvia Hoeks keeps the android dream alive from her turn in "Blade Runner 2049" as Camilla Salander. This disturbed caricature is "Stockholm Syndrome" incarnate.
"The Girl in the Spider's Web" is the inoffensive "Happy Meal" entry to the series.
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