Home » Years » 2018 » The Girl in the Spider’s Web •••1/2

The Girl in the Spider’s Web •••1/2

Starring: Claire Foy, Sylvia Hoeks, Lakeith Stanfield
Director: Fede Alvarez
Screenplay: Jay Basu, Fede Alvarez
Crime/Drama/Thriller, Rated: R
Running Time: 117 minutes
Release Date: November 9, 2018



(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, I’m just wondering: Did this film bug you?

Salander does indeed walk into a web of lies and deceit. Let’s recap:

We’re reintroduced to Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy ), who has taken up the hobby of protecting women from abusive men. We see her break into a home and string an abusive husband by his feet to the ceiling. Lisbeth has hacked into his accounts and is transferring all his money to his abused wife, and of course she tazes him in the genitals. Lisbeth’s next job is far more dangerous: She is to steal a program call FireFall containing nuclear codes from NSA servers, but after doing so two dangerous men break into her apartment, steal the software, and blow up the entire building.

Now she’s on a mission to retrieve the laptop and return it to the programmer who created FireFall so he can destroy it. As it turns out, the guy who runs the FireFall program at NSA wants the laptop, too. And so does the head of Swedish intelligence. But wait, there’s more… In order to unlock FireFall, secret phrases must be decoded by the only person in the world with the algorithm to do this. And it’s in the mind of the programmer’s autistic son.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a worthy follow-up to Stieg Larson’s book trilogy and to the 2011 original film starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. All the successful elements of the original work are still in place: the bleak winter Swedish scenery, the psychopathic villain, the underdog hero on the run, the satisfying vigilantism, and the hero’s near-suffocation at the end. Claire Foy steps up to the challenge of playing the role of the extraordinary Lisbeth Salander, one of the toughest and smartest heroes in cinema.

I was worried that Foy would be unable to approach the high precedent set by Mara, but it’s clear from even the first few minutes of the film that “Foy is a joy” to watch. Salander’s sister, Camilla, is played to pernicious perfection by Sylvia Hoeks, whose sliminess is reminiscent of the calm, ruthless cunning of the original film’s villain played by Stellan Skarsgård. If there is an element missing to the mix, it lies with the Blomkvist character played by Sverrir Gudnason. No offense to Gudnason, but he’s no Daniel Craig, and the film lacks a much-needed pizazz as a result.

There’s a lot to unpack in this installment of Larson’s series (which we know was written by David Lagercrantz). The first half of the film is very terse and fast-paced leaving a lot to the imaginations of the audience. We aren’t given a lot of backstory to Salander and Blomkvist’s relationship, or even Salander’s special hacking talents. We’re expected to already know these things through the zeitgeist or having read the books. If you’re not in the know, and even for me being in the know, you can get lost in the details.

Happily, the second half of the film is still fast-paced, but more deliberate in the story telling. And this saves the film. Salander is a modern James Bond – much more so than even the Daniel Craig version of Bond. She’s tough, smart, resourceful, and because she doesn’t have the backing of an entire government organization, very independent. Claire Foy’s incarnation of Salander is very textured. She’ intense, caring, dedicated, moral, and deeply hurt by both her father’s abuse and her sister’s revenge. Foy delivers a performance that shares the complexity of this character who is torn between her love for her sister and disgust at who she’s become. Movie characters in general, and heroes in particular, are rarely so powerfully drawn and Foy delivers in full measure.

Greg, The Girl in the Spider’s Web doesn’t approach the quality of the 2011 classic The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it’s nevertheless a worthy installment in the series. This current film is more Salander-centric than it is Blomkvist-centric, which isn’t a bad thing, yet I can’t help wishing that there was more balance in the screen-time between these two great characters. There is just enough murder and maniacal mayhem in this movie to make it worth watching. I give the film 3 Reels out of 5.

Our hero Salander is one of the strongest women heroes in the movies. Greg, you mention several of her key heroic traits, and it’s fair to say that she possesses most or all of the great eight traits of heroes: she’s smart, strong, reliable, resilient, selfless, and inspiring. And in her own way, she exudes charisma, as there isn’t a scene in the film when we aren’t focused on her energy and intensity. For her supreme kickassery, I award her 5 Hero points out of 5.

With regard to archetypes, I’ve mentioned the psychopathic villain, the underdog hero on the run, and the satisfying vigilantism. There are also the archetypes of sibling rivalry, child abuse, spousal abuse, and terrorism. These archetypes all add up to a score of 4 Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a flawed but enthralling thriller with great performances and a great story to boot. I was disappointed by the inaccuracies in the technology presented in the film – that perhaps only a true geek would notice. I was also disappointed by use of the now hackneyed “autistic savant” secondary character (which introduces a number of plot holes in itself – like what father would use his son as a password generator thereby making him the only person who could unlock a defense weapon for the NSA and Pentagon – which thereby puts his son in mortal danger?). Also, Salander has unimaginable hacking abilities which are assumed rather than explained in any way (like – she takes over an entire jail computer system to selectively release her sidekick, and also can hijack the security system of her sister’s house allowing her friends to perform science-fiction-like feats of assault). I give this new episode in The Millennium series 4 out of 5 Reels.

Salander is a welcome addition to female heroes of the #MeToo generation. Aside from being smart, tough, strong, competent in many ways, she also can be hurt – both physically and emotionally. Foy’s performance delivered in a way we haven’t seen on-screen perhaps ever. I seriously cannot remember a hero I wanted to follow as much as Salander. I give her 5 out of 5 Heroes.

As for archetypes, there are a few that cross the line into stereotype: EVIL FATHER, and EVIL SISTER. We also see the AUTISTIC SAVANT CHILD, GADGET GUY and NSA OPERATIVE. None of these characters were drawn as well as Salander, they offered a nice complement to her intensity. I give them 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

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