The Girl in the Spider's Web
Updated: Feb 7, 2020
In 2005, Swedish writer Stieg Larsson introduced the world to isolated computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” That book and its two sequels were adapted into Swedish language films. Later, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was adapted into an American movie by David Fincher, starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig. After Larsson’s death, two more books were written by author David Lagercrantz. The first of those, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, has now been turned into an English language film directed by Fede Alvarez and starring Claire Foy as Lisbeth.
I have not read any of the books, but I have seen all of the movies. I find Lisbeth Salander to be one of the most interesting creations in recent fiction. She is so intelligent and so much her own person that I care about her despite her reluctance to be cared about. The Girl in the Spider’s Web has a silly story I could never fully get into, however its protagonist retains most of her ability to fascinate.
The plot is this: Lisbeth is hired to hack into the NSA and steal a potentially dangerous weapons program. It does not take her long to complete her mission. Before she can deliver the program back to her client, men break into her apartment, steal her computer and try to kill her. Her client, thinking Lisbeth has double-crossed him, goes to the police. Now Lisbeth is on the run from the local authorities and the NSA while hunting the people who stole from her.
Things get more complicated from there, yet the movie is unable to generate suspense from its plot. The stories have never been the strong point in this series and this is definitely the worst of them. Even the twists are dull. There is far too much going on when all I really wanted to do was watch Lisbeth. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (111 minutes without the end credits) only intermittently focuses on her. It turns her into more of a superspy action hero than she was in the other adaptations. I did not like that. It made her seem ordinary. What I did like was Claire Foy’s performance.
Lisbeth Salander has already been played with great success by Noomi Rapace (in the Swedish trilogy) and Rooney Mara (who was nominated for an Oscar for Fincher’s movie). Claire Foy is not as good as either of them, but then the character is not given as much depth this time. It is more “things happen to her” and not enough “her happening to things.” That said, Foy projects the inner pain and darkness quite well. She captures Lisbeth. I just wish the screenplay gave her an opportunity to dive deeper into who that character is.
Part of the problem is The Girl in the Spider’s Web straddles some awkward ground. It is kind of a sequel, but also kind of a reboot. So it is introducing the characters and their world while continuing their story. There seems to be an assumption that Lisbeth does not need to be explored because she already has been. That is false. She is so compelling because of how complex she is. Her layers can always be peeled back further. This entry is not interested in doing that. It only wants to use established characters to add drama to a routine thriller plot. It is disappointing, but Foy’s work and some of the visuals employed by Alvarez keep things watchable. If this leads to an ongoing series, hopefully the filmmakers go back to what made these stories stand out in the first place.
2¾ out of 5
Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander
Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael Blomkvist
Lakeith Stanfield as Edwin Needham
Stephen Merchant as Frans Balder
Christopher Convery as August Balder
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Screenplay by Jay Basu, Fede Alvarez and Steven Knight