The Girl in the Spider's Web

 

            Two sisters are playing chess.   Using a competition clock.  Though young, they are fast, accomplished players.  The father of the two girls calls them into his bedroom and tells them he wants to play a game with them.  Yes, it's every bit as creepy as it sounds.   The older daughter, Camilla, seems resigned to her fate, and walks toward her father, but the young one, Lisbeth, runs away.  Out the window and into a snowbank.  Camilla does not follow her.  She stays behind with their father.  Lisbeth never looks back.

            Now that Lisbeth (Claire Foy) is grown, she's a Goth dresser with a big dragon tattoo on her back (and other tattoos, and piercings, and spike hair, with a perpetually scowling countenance, and every inch of her cries out, “Don't mess with me”).

            We see Lisbeth as a kind of urban Robin Hood, rescuing frightened women from abusive relationships and handling the abuser by force, if necessary, but blackmail works, as well.  Lisbeth is a computer-savvy, motorcycle-riding, personally-appointed Hell's Angel who seems to need no one.  At least not for very long.  We see her in a brief one-night-stand kind of relationship, where she dismisses her paramour as soon as she has work to do. 

            Lisbeth does have at least one real friend in the world:  Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), a newspaper reporter who was once revered but has now fallen on harder times.  He drinks on the job.  He's got a new boss he detests.  His one ally in the newsroom, Erika (Vicky Krieps) seems to have an interest in him professionally and personally, but she's also inconveniently married.  And Mikael is so down on himself that he doesn't have enough self-esteem to resist the hypocrisy.

            But Mikael gets called on when Lisbeth finally runs into a situation where she needs help.  It seems there's a genius computer engineer who's figured out how to tap into the code for all the satellites, including those controlling nuclear capabilities.  He thought maybe he could disarm the warmongers and usher in an era of true peace.  But the genius, Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), is apparently not street-smart enough to realize that unscrupulous people could steal his laptop and use his hacking program for the exact opposite purpose: to make greater violence.  So Frans tries to get Lisbeth to steal back his laptop, but the bad guys turn out to be not only ruthless and merciless, but also well-organized and resourceful, and seemingly always one step ahead of her.  Fortunately, Mikael also knows a great computer hacker—named Plague?

            Throw in an American NSA guy in secret pursuit of Lisbeth (even though a black man kind of stand out in a Swedish crowd), as well as a Swedish agent representing her own country's best interests, who's also pursuing Lisbeth, and you wonder how our taciturn Dragon Lady is going to have any chance of fulfilling her original mission. But then, as in the “Star Wars” saga, the fate of the world seems to hang in the balance of unfinished family business.

            Claire Foy is a strong enough actor to carry this demanding lead role, even though the part is hardly glamorous.  Though there are some confusing moments during the plot twists, at the end, we know that it's going to be mano y mano, good against evil, and we aren't disappointed. 

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association