Monday, 13 September 2010


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The book or the film? Often it's a question that is easily answered: the book is always better. But when so many books are adapted for the big screen, it's often a case of film over book; I mean, you can only read so much and, hey, films are my job.

Unlike a lot of Australians, I didn't read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the first in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy of books, so came to film version fresh and found it to be an exciting thriller. So impressed was I, I read the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire. Big mistake. If there is one thing a thriller requires to succeed it is suspense, and having read the book I knew what was going to happen, and to whom and why. I also knew what had been altered or excised from the source material which is a lot given that 600 pages into 130 minutes simply doesn't go.

Having said that, I feel that even if I hadn't read Larsson's sequel beforehand, I would still have found The Girl Who Played With Fire wanting; it's just not as good as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The action takes place a year after the events of Tattoo, with Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) returning to Sweden after a year abroad and it's not too long before she is caught up in a murder investigation. A journalist and his girlfriend have been murdered, presumably because of the expose they were writing on Sweden's sex trafficking industry which named names in high places.

As luck would have it, they happened to be writing for Millennium, the independent newspaper operated by Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyquvist), who is always ready to right a wrong and even more so here when Salander, who helped Blomkvist solve the case in Tattoo, becomes the police's number one suspect.

I won't go any further into the plot only to say that we learn a lot more about the secretive, insular Lisbeth Salander. Whether you regard Larsson's creation as a feminist heroine or the literary equivalent of male wet dream, Salander is one of the more fascinating female characters in book and film for quite some time, and Rapace is just as excellent as she was first time round.

I think it was wise of the producers of the forthcoming American remake to cast a virtual unknown (Rooney Mara) in the role. While a great number of the audience for that version won't have seen Rapace's performance, the fewer distractions (hey, it's [insert A-list actress here] in goth drag!) the better. Daniel Craig's casting, on the other hand, will be distraction enough: Hey, what's James Bond doing here?

But I digress. The Girl Who Played With Fire should be greeted just as eagerly as its prequel, which raked in $6 million at the Oz box office; those same fans of the book (not to mention a good portion who wanted to get in on the craze but baulked at actually reading Larsson's 600-page doorstop), eager to see their heroine's exploits once again brought to life. And even if the film is less than, they won't be disappointed by the Girl.

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