The Girl in the Spider's Web is the latest in the film franchise based on Stieg Larsson’s Swedish crime novels, the “Millennium” Series. The book series includes: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played with Fire”, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest”, “The Girl in the Spider's Web”, and, “The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye”; all but the latter are also films.
The saga revolves around Lisbeth Salander, a genius hacker with a traumatic past and anti-social characteristics, who evades norms and power structures. She is many things along the development of the series, an avenger, a convict, a hero, etc. Another ensconced character is that of the journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, who is not only Salander’s ally but also serves as intermediary for viewers and plot points. In The Girl in the Spider's Web, directed by Fede Álvarez, Blomkvist is played by Sverrir Gudnason; but what is great about the casting is the unexpected role of Lisbeth Salander as delivered by Claire Foy. This was a genius move on the part of Álvarez, and is what makes the film worth watching.
The Girl in the Spider's Web is a solid addition to the franchise because it is different enough, it’s not a remake of the past films, and while it departs from the books as well (which may irritate some) it does help project the myth Salander into a future and slightly older persona. Claire Foy, who audiences will likely know from Netflix’s The Crown, where she plays a young Queen Elizabeth, is a remarkably dexterous actor. She brings a quiet depth and emotional intelligence to the character of Lisbeth Salander. Foy is able to hold scenes and connect with viewers without uttering a single word. Foy’s Salander is older (she is the Woman in the Spider’s Web), and more vulnerable. This serves the story well as it deals with childhood trauma and Lisbeth’s relationship with her sister, Camilla Salander (Sylvia Hoeks).
The Girl in the Spider's Web is an action film for sure, just like the others in the franchise, but Salander is human and exposed, so the film doesn’t get stuck on any one fighting or ultimate battle scene, because after all Lisbeth Salander does not have super powers, she is neither machine nor god and even in her most embattled state, she is purely on survival mode.
The film does have some continuity issues, with the franchise and also within the plot itself, but these are not enough to thwart Foy’s performance or the director’s ability to manage the pace. The compelling part of the story is really Lisbeth Salander’s character exposition. The opening credits are beautiful to watch and invoke “Ghost in the Shell” just enough to draw a parallel between emotion and isolation, technology and human transcendence. In the case of Lisbeth and Camilla, their story is complicated, filled with guilt and disappointment, but even so, the sibling love is palpable.
In theaters now, check listings.