I am not a fan of the Millennium Trilogy, largely because it has two characters who - for completely different reasons - infuriate me. So what was I doing at the movie adaptation of the fourth, gun-for-hire, Lisbeth Salander novel?
Claire Foy, that’s why. I was prepared to give it a shot for Claire Foy, another of the new generation of performers who just hypnotise me; Foy, Kiernan Shipka, Millie Bobby Brown, the one and only Chloe Grace Moretz. There’s something in the way they look at a camera which makes me want to look back. Plus, the trailer had some cool stuff in it. Death by airbag. Motorbikes on ice floes. Hand-of-god sniper fire.
Well, it’s all there. Except Claire Foy, who appears to have been given very simple direction. “Claire” the director said “You’re the only native English speaker in the cast. Don’t upstage the Swedes. They’re doing their best.” Claire duly dials everything way down. Way, way down. The poor old Swedes are not blasted off the screen. Heaven help them. I’m not saying they took Lagercrantz’s novel and ran the dialogue through Google translate to get the script, but I’m going to need proof that they didn’t. At one level, fair enough for Claire Foy. She’s playing someone with either autism or some kind of emotional development disorder, depending on exactly what you choose to believe Lisbeth Salander’s damage is. This was always going to be a role with not much talking and even less emoting. That just left the poor old Swedes having to explain the plot using whatever they’re given by the scriptwriter. God help them.
And yet it’s a surprisingly OK movie. The plot is straight up stupid hacker McGuffin nonsense like I thought they’d stopped making any more, but it hangs together and stuff happens in a logical sequence. If you want to believe that it’s possible to write a programme that can control the world’s nuclear missiles remotely and that it will fit into 2528 bytes of code, this is your movie. If you think we need a female James Bond, this could be right up your street; whoever did the title sequence seems to have thought this was a Bond movie, and Lisbeth Salander still has that screw anything, hurt anything, break anything, do anything, unstoppable by anything, balagan that Bond movies run on.
In that sense, nothing has changed. Salander can do whatever the plot needs her to do, and Blomkvist is still every woman’s dream date. Heaven help us, they held back two or three minutes of run time just to hammer home that his editor Erika is still splitting hr time between her husband and Blomkvist, easily my least favourite bit of the first three books. If none of that took the enamel off your molars ten years ago, you’re going to lean right in on this movie and eat it all up.
And stuff can kind of work, if you’re ready to suspend all disbelief. One of the best setpieces in the movie is Salander running down the guys what have kidnapped the moppet who lies at the heart of all the McGuffinage. She’s just been injected with god only knows what after losing a fistfight hard. She walks it off by grinding up and snorting random drugs that fell out of the bathroom cabinet, then staggers out in the open air, kicks a dead cop out of an unmarked Volvo, and chases down the BMW getaway car, dividing her time between driving the car, shaking off the drugs, programming the in car navigation system to track her target and using her smartphone to hack the BMW so that she can trigger the airbags and run it off the road that way. At sixty miles an hour. On drugs. It’s ridiculous, but Foy kind of sells it. It’s a pretty cool chase scene. It’s just - well read that description back.
Salander is not like the other children, is what I’m saying. So not like them that it’s best to think of it all happening by magic. Which is cool and all, but it does take the suspense out of things. No matter how battered she might get in the moment, she’s still going to overcome all opposition by laser guided planning, improbabl computer skills and concentrated essence of bad ass.
And Claire Foy is genuinely good enough to sell the idea, at least some of the time. Weirdly a lot of it is in the walk. She’s absolutely tiny, and she walks like she just washed out of ballet school, but something in that stride conveys absolute determination. Pity no-one else is keeping up with her.