The Girl In The Spider's Web (NC16)
Starring Claire Foy, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Lisbeth Salander, the computer hacker-social misfit-overall weird chick in the Millennium novel series from Sweden, is an amazing tech whiz.
Simply by using her mobile phone, she can make air bags of a car she's pursuing pop out, unlock the cell doors of a detention centre, and generally do such incredible things remotely via her phone she'd make even a 10G robot jealous.
Straightaway, the burning question is this – it's happening up there in the freezing Nordic north and she's a genius with cell phones, so why isn't she also The Girl Who Can Save Nokia?
Here's the deal. If you have no idea who this gal with the huge Yakuza-size dragon tattoo inked onto her back is, well, chances are you still won't know who she is here.
Because this movie doesn't wait for you. It goes straight into its relentless Euro-thriller mode with such intense seriousness involving government agents, ruthless assassins, exploding buildings, slick car and motorcycle chases, and close-quarters fighting so frenetic you might think you've stumbled upon a female version of Jason Bourne.
Okay, there's also a backstory about a long lost sibling that's designed to humanise before it pulverises. Lisbeth has a twisted sister, Camilla, she abandoned 16 years ago who has since gone to the dark side the way Thor has Loki.
But on the whole, this film doesn't really relate to 2011's Hollywood-style mystery actioner, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig — although it's supposed to be a sequel. All the characters have been re-cast and even the writer of the books has changed since the original author, Stieg Larsson, died years ago, with David Lagercrantz continuing the series.
To make things even more confusing in terms of who's playing whom, that 2011 Dragon Tattoo was itself a big-budget Hollywood remake of a more modest 2009 Swedish original starring Noomi Rapace. So, basically, this Spider's Web is a reboot hoping to spin into a rebranded franchise with a new leading lady up close and personal in virtually every frame, Brit actress-of-the-moment Claire Foy (The Crown).
Foy is a terrific actress who's able to emote through a repertoire of scowls despite looking a little bit too old to be behaving like a young punk here. As The Girl With The Cute Butt On A Bike, she is cold, glum and so seriously pissed off at bad men that she looks like a one-woman #MeToo movement heading straight for misogynistic a**holes in touch with their inner Harvey Weinstein. In the opening scene, she strings up a filthy-rich piece of crap by his feet to free that bastard's battered wife in some kind of divine feminist punishment.
To amp up her unconventional vigilante-saviour cred, she also sports short black monkish hair, sleeps with her female lover and kicks back as hard as she is pummelled by scary dudes twice her size. All of which are, of course, liberal habits that send shivers down the spines of Trumpish male pigs, including me for getting turned on by Foy's naked bathtub scene here.
Now, I'm emphasising “cold” because this reboot really goes back to its source material's refrigerated roots by way of its dark, stark and depressingly underlit Scandinavian landscape of snowy forests and frigid buildings where the people inhabiting them are either kind of psychotic or certifiably suicidal. Somehow, folks here have a strange penchant for throwing themselves off high places like rag dolls into the snow-blanketed wilderness of Stockholm below.
Man, if the air con in the cinema hall doesn't freeze your nuts off, the prevailing dusky mood here accompanying the action surely would as Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez — who helmed 2016's horror-thriller Don't Breathe — channels his best Luc Besson.
It makes things icily atmospheric as Lisbeth, locked in a persistent bad mood and perpetual frown, is thrust into a deadly, intertwining spider's web of international espionage, dark deeds and cyber tracking so impossible it makes even Mission: Impossible's Tom Cruise look like a caveman.
Hired by a client (Stephen Merchant) to hack into a top-secret US National Security Agency computer programme that controls global nuclear weapons, Lisbeth sets off a deadly chain of hot pursuit with the NSA, Swedish government officials and Russian heavies coming for her and a savant kid she protects with the help of her journalist part-time-lover/not-so-good-with-fists ally, Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason).
You keep wondering why Lisbeth doesn't just arm herself better with maybe a bazooka or a battle tank against super villains who inject her with dangerous stuff and stick her into a suffocating body suit. Guess it's the pluck of the Swedish with the luck of the Irish at work here.
Apparently, this plot has been simplified from its book version for a quicker pace and a more kinetic look with no visuals more contrasting than the Spectre-like reunion showdown between squabbling sisters Lisbeth and Camilla.
As played by mesmerising Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks, who also essayed the standout villain in Blade Runner 2049, Camilla is an evil-mastermind psychopath looking so severely pale-faced Nordic with her frosty eyebrows she resembles an escapee from Game Of Thrones next to even Lisbeth who is already a tattooed visual feat all by herself. It makes you wonder if their family gene pool had been stirred by an ice cream cone.
“Why do you save everyone but me?” Camilla plays on her sister's guilt.
This sibling rivalry has Addams Family potential. Hope we see both gals again in The Girl Who Can Save Nokia. (***1/2)
Photo: Sony Entertainment Pictures