Foy captures Lisbeth's contained rage and badass demeanor.
Welcome back, Lisbeth Salander. We’ve missed you.
Lisbeth first hit the screen as the heroine of a trio of 2009 Swedish thrillers – “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” – based on novels by Stieg Larsson. Noomi Rapace played Lisbeth, a vigilante/computer hacker whose dark past has left her emotionally scarred and eager to dole out payback to men who abuse women.
Next came 2011 English-language remake of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” starring Rooney Mara as Lisbeth and Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, the investigative journalist who joins forces with Lisbeth to solve mysteries and battle evil in all of the “Girl” stories.
Now, Lisbeth and Mikael are back in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” based on a novel by David Lagercrantz, who has taken over the series (Larsson died in 2004 at age 50). Rising star Claire Foy (“The Crown,” “First Man”) plays Lisbeth, and though no one will ever top Rapace’s phenomenal portrayal of the character, Foy does an excellent job of capturing Lisbeth’s contained rage and badass demeanor.
After an opening flashback from Lisbeth’s troubled (as in horrific) childhood, the film moves on to Lisbeth in present day, interrupting a CEO’s abuse of his wife in most dramatic fashion. Though this scene has next to nothing to do with the plot, it’s an example of a key reason (though not nearly the only one) why Lisbeth remains such a compelling, appealing character. The way she takes on, and punishes, abusers provides a catharsis for anyone frustrated with a corrupt world where justice seems in short supply (or, at least, is slow in coming). Sure, there’s a touch of “Death Wish” to her vigilante actions, but Lisbeth’s rage seems less a plot contrivance (as in the case of lesser revenge stories) than a genuine, proactive reaction to evil in the world.
From there the main plot gets going, as Lisbeth and Mikael (now played by Sverrir Gudnason, who played Bjorn Borg in last year’s “Borg vs. McEnroe”) reunite to take on ruthless criminal and government forces threatening to steal control of international defense systems. Some of the villains here are monstrously brutal (there’s at least one scene here that will have many moviegoers cringing) and evil, to the point that this crime thriller sometimes borders on horror. Perhaps this is in part because the film was directed by Fede Alvarez, who has a horror film background (“Don’t Breathe,” the “Evil Dead” remake), but all of the films in the series have had this type of effect.
Whatever genre label you want to slap on it, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” never fails to keep you engrossed in its intense proceedings, thanks largely to its endlessly fascinating heroine.