Foy as vigilante hacker in The Girl In The Spider's Web. Photograph from IMDB
Culture Movies

The two-minute review: The Girl in The Spider’s Web

The film’s focus is squarely on main protagonist Lisbeth Salander and her potential as a serial-worthy hero—a nascent, tech-savvy Jane Bond
Andrew Paredes | Nov 20 2018

Directed by Fede Alvarez

Starring Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks

Anybody who’s seen the Evil Dead remake or the locked-house chiller Don’t Breathe will attest to how efficiently Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez can mount a lean, mean thriller. He basically does the same with the fourth Lisbeth Salander story, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, but he’s produced such an efficient machine that you essentially forget about it the moment it zips right by you.

Hacker and post-modern punk Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy).

Alvarez and co-writer Jay Basu take the clunky book written by David Lagercrantz, strip it, and only keep the narrative’s engine. Hacker and post-modern punk Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy), “the woman who hurts men who hurt women,” has been hired by a fired NSA operative (Stephen Merchant) to retrieve Firefall, a program he wrote that can control all the missile defense systems in the world. After the program is in turn stolen from her and another NSA operative (Lakeith Stanfield) starts pursuing her, Lisbeth turns to journalist/habitual collaborator Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) for clues as to who pilfered the software from her—a trail that will lead back to her tortured family’s past.

Lakeith Stanfield plays NSA operative Edwin Needham who is tracking Salander.

The focus here is squarely on Lisbeth and her potential as a serial-worthy hero—a nascent, tech-savvy Jane Bond—which means Lisbeth must be made more mainstream. Gone are any alienating character hallmarks, such as Rooney Mara’s ghastly punk hairstyles, shaved eyebrows, or seething rage. (Foy plays Lisbeth as perpetually pissed.) Gone too are any efforts to flesh out Mikael Blomkvist as a marquee co-lead. He is basically relegated to being a spectator to Lisbeth’s stunts, which probably explains why the filmmakers cast the generically good-looking (and less known) Swedish actor Sverrir Gudnason in the role.

The journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), the habitual collaborator Salander turns to.
Sylvia Hoeks plays Lisbeth's estranged sister.

The problem is, they also jettison what made the franchise distinctive in the first place: the rot and corruption underpinning the cold, snow-driven Swedish landscape, a context brought into sharp relief by David Fincher’s creepy atmospherics. His interpretation of Stieg Larsson’s first Lisbeth Salander novel, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was rooted in one rich family’s dysfunction and perversity, and how their influence infected Sweden’s structures of power. In The Girl in the Spider’s Web, there are no such specifics, only the spectacle of Lisbeth Salander—like any superhero or secret agent before her—performing the mundane task of saving the world.


Photographs from IMDB