SP Review: 'The Girl In The Spider's Web' is a captivating thriller

Arts and culture reporter Brandon King gives 'The Girl In The Spider's Web' 7.5/10 stars

Stieg Larsson and David Lagercrantz's "Millennium" book series has captivated readers for over a decade now with its mix of espionage and tech-thriller elements. There have already been two well-known incarnations of the novels — the 2009 Swedish film, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" directed by Niels Arden Oplev (which spawned its own trilogy) and the 2011 American remake of the same name directed by David Fincher. 

The latter had some moderate international success, but a possible sequel ran into development limbo due to a variety of reasons. Now, seven years later, we finally have a sequel (possibly reboot, it was never officially confirmed) to that film in "The Girl In The Spider's Web," directed by "Evil Dead" and "Don't Breathe" director Fede Alvarez. 

To preface this review, you have to understand that, prior to this week, I had zero exposure to anything of this series, having not read any of the books or seen the Swedish films. However, since there was a bit of discussion as to whether this film would be a continuation to Fincher's film, I gave it a watch (loved it, by the way). Because of that, I think I have at least a bit more context than I previously did. 

So is "The Girl In The Spider's Web" a worthy addition to the "Millennium" world or not?

I'll put it like this, with the context that I have never been a die-hard fan, I really enjoyed this movie. Maybe not as much as its predecessor, but "The Girl In The Spider's Web" is a solid thriller, filled with captivating characters, thought-provoking imagery and a story that isn't a fountain of thematic ideas but worked enough for my taste. 

Lisbeth Salander (played by Claire Foy) is a vigilante hacker living in Stockholm, who mostly spends her days finding dirt on anyone and everyone and beats up anyone who truly deserves it in her eyes. One day she gets a call from a former NSA employee named Frans Balder (played by Stephen Merchant) who needs her help in obtaining a program he created called FireFall. 

Balder wants to destroy his creation because in the wrong hands it could detonate any weapon anywhere on the planet. But when things take a turn and a mysterious criminal gang is also revealed to be looking for the program, Salander must turn to NSA hacker Edwin Needham (played by Lakeith Stanfield) and journalist Mikael Blomkvist (played by Sverrir Gudnason) for help in stopping a threat Lisbeth may know more about than she lets on. 

Fede Alvarez fills this film with visual iconography — everything from technology's role in privacy, the devil vs. fallen angels and even the titular spider are all visually present and fun to keep an eye out on. It all comes together in the setting of Stockholm and the film maintains a consistent feeling of both familiarity and skepticism. 

As far as performances go, I thought Claire Foy was excellent in this. No, she's not as compelling as Rooney Mara, but they're very different iterations. Mara's Salander is more distant, omnipotent and rarely shows any of her true colors. 

Contrast that against Foy's version, who is much more willing to interact with others (positively or negatively) but also showing a bit more of a tragic angle to her. I still prefer the former, but the latter is nothing to scoff at. LaKeith Stanfield also gets a couple of key moments, and Sylvia Hoeks has a great dynamic with Foy as well. 

The film never really goes for any of the same shock value, cold tension or cinematic ambition that Fincher's film did, and that may turn a lot of people off (even some of the people I spoke to after the screening weren't ecstatic about that aspect). There are also a couple of suspension of disbelief moments that might really take you out of it. 

Additionally, it also doesn't have the best pacing to it. I found myself checking my phone after the movie and thinking 'wow, that felt a lot longer than it actually was.' Granted, the previous film was long too, but it was packed to the brim with tension and, arguably, more of a 'spider's web' of a story than this film is (I almost want to swap the titles around as it seems more accurate).

"The Girl In The Spider's Web" sincerely paid off for me looking at it on its own merits. What it may lack in pacing or overall themes, it makes up for by being a sleek, generally well-constructed film with good characters and a noir-inspired world that at least attempts to go for some broader ideas. 

I understand that book fans don't like streamlining ideas from the source material, and maybe I am completely in the wrong without that context. But I think there's enough redemptive value in this film to give it a shot — new fan or not.

Overall, I give "The Girl In The Spider's Web" a rating of 7.5/10 stars. 

Reach the reporter at brandon.D.King@asu.edu or follow @TheMovieKing45 on Twitter.

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