Review: “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”

2 out of 5 stars.

“The Girl in the Spider’s Web” looks and feels like it has all the hallmarks of a good spy thriller. But while it draws heavily on those elements, including cool tech, high speed chases, shoot-outs, and a clever heroine, it falls to make a human connection between its characters and, in turn, with its audience.

This film, directed by Fede Alvarez, is a reboot of the “Girlwith the Dragon Tattoo” series (technically, this film’s title is “The Girl inthe Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story,” but really Sony, who is going to call it that?).  An adaptation of the popular book series by Stieg Larsson, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”released in 2011 was directed by David Fincher and starred Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, in case you forgot.  Which hopefully you didn’t forget too much going into this new film (which is actually an adaptation of the first book in the series not written by Larsson; it was written and published by David Lagercrantz after Larsson passed away), because “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” is definitely going to assume that you are at least vaguely aware of who all these characters are and what their story is.

One of those characters, the main protagonist in fact, is Lisbeth Salander, played here by Claire Foy.  Lisbeth is a hacker who is cold, lives alone, and uses her skills to help abused women.  She is enlisted by programmer Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) to retrieve a program he designed for American’s National Security Agency called Firefall.  Anyone in control of Firefall would have access to the world’s nuclear codes. Lisbeth hacks the NSA and transfers it to her computer, but she is quickly traced and the laptop with Firefall is stolen from her.  Lisbeth finds herself the target of several different groups, including NSA agent Needham (LaKeith Stanfield), the Swedish Secret Service, and the mercenaries who stole Firefall. 

Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) confronts one of her victims

“The Girl in the Spider’s Web” has a good deal of action, and it’s all shot beautifully.  The perpetually snowy Sweden makes for a stark backdrop to the proceedings.  But the film relies too heavily on the action elements to work.  One of the biggest relationships driving the story is supposed to be that of Lisbeth and her sister Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks), who Lisbeth became estranged from after running away from their abusive father—and leaving Camilla behind.  But we never get a great grasp on how close they were, so their scenes together lack the tension and the emotion they should have.  The same can be said for some of the other characters.  Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), the journalist who was one of the main characters in the original Millennium trilogy and who used to have a relationship with Lisbeth,is in this story, but isn’t given anything important do and just kind of exists in the background. 

The story is pretty straightforward until the climax, whichis almost too ridiculous for the film’s otherwise serious tone.  One bright spot in the movie is Foy, who does a great job embodying this character that has already been brought to the big screen twice by two different actresses. She’s fierce, but you can also see in her eyes how much her past still haunts her.  A character as interesting as Lisbeth Salander, and with such a great actress playing her, deserves a story that focuses not just on what she can do, but on who she is.

Runtime: 117 minutes. Rated R.

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