The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second installment in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy, ditches Niels Arden Oplev, the director of the first installment in the Swedish series, for Daniel Alfredson and while the story is a marked improvement over the drab procedural of the original, Alfredson also trades in some cinematic import for a more TV movie feel. While the story takes up more personal stakes and allows the viewer to enter the head space of Lisbeth Salander, the film’s central heroine, there’s also a lot more needless fat to the story and the kind of sheen that’s more evident on network television. All of the gritty details are left to the story while the film takes a cleaner shine that betrays its gritty details.
A year has passed since the events of the first film and Lisbeth has been living abroad while Mikael Blomkvist is working with a new reporter at his Millenium Magazine hoping to expose a sex trafficking ring. When Lisbeth returns to Stockholm and the young reporter and his girlfriend end up dead, with Lisbeth’s fingerprints on the gun, our two estranged heroes delve into the seedy underground each, separately, trying to prove the young hacker’s innocence. As opposed to the first film which introduced her, this film reveals much of the background and history of its central character and she thusly feels more of an essential character. In the first film, it felt like Lisbeth was little more than a sidekick character to Blomkvist within her own franchise but she takes center stage here revealing interesting details about her past and informing and playing off of events that felt like perfunctory appendages in the first film.