NEW YORK (CNS) — Claire Foy, celebrated for her recent portrayal of the young Elizabeth II on the Netflix series “The Crown,” takes on a similarly named but much less stately persona as the title character in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” (Columbia).
As its subtitle, “A New Dragon Tattoo Story,” indicates, director and co-writer Fede Alvarez’s bitter espionage drama is a follow-up to David Fincher’s 2011 film “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
Both movies revolve around Swede Lisbeth Salander (played by Rooney Mara in the original), a skilled computer hacker with a dark past who also dabbles in vigilantism. Salander started out as the protagonist in the “Millenium” series of best-selling novels, begun by Stieg Larsson and carried on, after his 2004 death, by David Lagercrantz.
A trio of Swedish-language pictures was adapted from the books before Hollywood took its crack at the material.
Collaborating on the script with Jay Basu and Steven Knight, Alvarez tones down the mayhem and restricts the do-it-yourself justice to one nonlethal incident. Still, with an abusive childhood in the background and a same-sex relationship on the margin of the story, Salander’s latest outing is unsuitable for most viewers.
For the umpteenth time at a multiplex near you, the fate of the world hangs in the balance as shadowy figures try to get hold of some nukes. In this case, though, thanks to Firewall, a computer program created by now-disaffected U.S. intelligence operative Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), it’s not just this or that doomsday device that’s in play but all the nuclear arsenals in the entire world!
Remorseful at having crafted Firewall, Balder hires Salander to steal it by hacking into the computer system of the National Security Agency. No sooner has she pulled this off, with a rather surprising — not to say alarming — ease and alacrity than persons unknown break into her abandoned warehouse headquarters and purloin it in turn.
To retrieve Firewall, Salander enlists the help of her “Dragon Tattoo” partner (in and out of bed), journalist Mikael Blomquist (Sverrir Gudnason). She also teams with the agent the NSA has dispatched to reclaim their property, Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield).
A bedroom scene with a female character implies that Salander likes to switch things up sexually. But she derives no more satisfaction from this waywardness than from any other aspect of her isolated, jaundiced existence.
Though Foy conveys the necessary flat effect quite effectively, two hours of her emotional stasis feels as long as a Scandinavian winter. So grownups will want to think carefully before taking on all the seamy aspects involved in this iteration of Salander’s ongoing saga. There’s not much, in the end, to reward them for doing so.
The film contains considerable violence with some gore, torture, a few gruesome sights, strong sexual content, including brief graphic images of adulterous activity, a lesbian relationship and a glimpse of full female nudity, mature themes, vigilantism, a suicide, a mild oath, about a dozen rough terms and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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