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The Girl in the Spider's Web review - somewhat lacklustre, cold addition to the franchise


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Verdict: Visually great, but emotionally lacking and predictable as hell.

Lisbeth Salander is the new James Bond — an almost mythological figure whose mantle can be passed down from actor to actor, whose stories can be written and expanded upon by various writers and production teams. This latest iteration stars The Crown’s Claire Foy in the titular role.

Avenging angel — the woman who hurts men who hurt women. It’s a fantastic concept, but the structure of the Dragon Tattoo novels is lost in this brand new story that delves into Lisbeth’s past.  Sverrir Gudnason plays an utterly bland Blomkvist, who falls totally flat after Daniel Craig’s electric turn in the 2011 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, leaving Foy to heft the majority of the film herself. 

Though the icy landscapes and moody Scandi colour palette, the visual impact of the film can’t balance out the derivative storyline. The predictability of it all is in part the fault of the trailer, which gives away the only twist in the film, and partly because the film is so entrenched in genre that a bot could have written it after watching a few decent spy thrillers. 

The danger, like with Bond and Doctor Who, is the comparisons drawn between the leading actors in previous versions. Unfortunately, though Foy’s action scenes are impressive, she doesn’t quite bring to the role the steely energy that Rooney Mara did, or the dangerous energy that Noomi Rapace did in the 2009 Swedish adaptation. 

A bizarrely cast Stephen Merchant plays a scientist concerned his world-ending missile technology has ended up in the wrong hands. He’s fairly innocuous and hardly adds anything beyond plot relevance. The supremely talented Lakeith Stanfield is without a doubt the most gifted member of the cast, but while he plays his role as ex-military US intelligence officer well, he’s still wasted in the cardboard cutout role.

The action is slick and is probably the film’s saving grace — smooth and exciting car chases, an excellent scene when Lisbeth’s apartment is attacked, even a brilliantly orchestrated airport escape scene. What the film does manage to do is add excitement to Lisbeth’s main skill: she’s a hacker, which isn’t always the most dynamic thing to see on screen, but this film brings it to life.

Unfortunately, the emotional arc is weak, with motivations that don’t really make sense, and a villain turned cartoonish by her insistence on wearing head to toe red in every scene. The film is lacking in warmth — a cold protagonist that hardly connects with anyone throughout the film results in an empty, almost clinical experience. The one exception is the remarkable Christopher Convery, a child in need of Lisbeth’s protection, who does what he can filling out his plot device role with some emotion.

It’s a shame, but Fede Alvarez’s film can’t hold a candle to Fincher’s. The franchise regardless has huge potential — one Quantum of Solace doesn’t mean we should give up on Bond, right? 

The Girl in the Spider's Web is out today, November 21st.

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