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June 2011

The Girl Who Played With Fire

cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Peter Andersson, and Georgi Staykov

director: Daniel Alfredson

120 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2

RATING: 10/10
review by Mike Philbin

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Quick recap: in the first film, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, we learned about computer hacker Lisbeth Salander's sorry-ass up-bringing of domestic violence, child abuse and institutional torture in the name of the welfare state, Swedish style. This time, Salander's on the run. Well, she's out of the country, licking her wounds, rebuilding her resources, replenishing her hate. Now, she's headed back to Sweden and she's about to crash head-on into a Cold War territorial conspiracy that reaches right back into her childhood and regurgitate the most awful memories from her so-called family life.

I've said it once, about European films, and I'll probably say it again, Hollywood just can't make films like this. Think of those amazing European films like Léon, and Nikita, and The Vanishing, and you'll understand where I'm coming from. Hollywood doesn't know how to deal with a subject without hip-hop-ifying or happy-ending the hell out of it. Europe is an alien place to the corporate media Hollywood war machine. It just can't depict real trauma - aka 'real reality'.

The BBC (corporate government propaganda lackeys that they are) know how to make these morose character inquisitions; look at EastEnders, look at Messiah, look at The Shadow Line. You'd think the United Kingdom was a vicious melting pot of neuroses, addictions and abuse. And you'd be right. From an early age, your common-or-garden 'royal subject' is gaffer-taped to the mind-crippling welfare state and its insane & arbitraryTM set of moral guidelines.

Which, miniscule and bitter diversion aside, takes us back to Lisbeth Salander, who's about to stumble clumsily into a sinister game of sex and death that's older than the Cold War. Salander is soon to realise that she, like all 'assets of the country', are nothing more than pawns in a global game of chess. This extra dollop of nastiness on top of all that happened to her in the first film puts a shrieking human face onto the leering ogre and obsessive counterplotting and brutal back-stabbing of the intelligence game and its disregard for the players on the board, innocent or complicit.

Yes, Lisbeth Salander is heading back home, and her first port of call is the apartment of lawyer Nils Bjurman, the scumbag parole officer who just isn't a nice bloke. He'll not last long though, and not necessarily because of any mischief Salander might visit upon him. No, Bjurman, like all the scumbag politicians, scumbag doctors and scumbag lawyers in this scumbag hell-scape of a film are compromised, part of a much larger narrative that stretches back as far as the Nazi era. And the trail of murders continues, one after the other, as the weak links in the governmental chain are eliminated within Salander's wake.

Of course, the publisher of 'Millennium' magazine, Mikael Blomkvist, who helped Salander out in the first film, has not only taken on a young journalist to help expose a child-sex ring but is once again called on to help clear Salander's name. Imagine what life's like with bombs going off round every corner or rattlesnakes in every bed you sleep in or poison in every meal or glass of water - that's what it's like to be someone on the wrong side of the global chess board, someone (expendable) like Lisbeth Salander.

And I know I'm not making it sound like the most appetising way to 'waste two hours of your life' but, trust me, I love this properly-brutal film, the atmosphere's just right, the characters are spot on, the fight scenes feel real, there's even a spicy lesbian sex scene - and we all know the best sex scenes are ones without a hairy man-ass bobbing up and down in them.

Watch out for some stunning revelations and plot twists that'll help you cruise, almost seamlessly, into needing to watch the final part The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. Of special note is a bleached-blond 'terminator' Ronald Niedermann who makes James Bond's enemy 'Jaws' look like a kindergarten schoolteacher. This is nasty, riveting, and inspiring viewing.

DVD extras: cast and crew interviews, trailers and teasers for this film and the final one in the series.



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