The Girl in the Spider's Web ★★½

Having seen a couple of these with various actresses, I knew going in I didn't really give a shit character-wise*, but I was interested in seeing what Fede Álvarez would do this, given how much I liked his camera direction in DON'T BREATHE. (Yes, I know it sounds like I'm saying he's better than Fincher, and I certainly don't think that, but I feel like Fincher was treating the material classier than it deserved.)

For the first hour or so, it's mostly aces on the camera direction front, from his swoon-worthy coverage of two kids playing chess to a brilliantly conceived post title reveal of a calm business man's apology to swerving back and forth following LaKeith Stanfield (who can do anything, even when, as here, he's given nothing) walking to his desk to a totally bravura moment involving a drugged Lisbeth stumbling out of the house, the camera rotating freely 90 degrees in either direction. There's a few bum notes (like the riff on a SILENCE OF THE LAMBS cross-cut scene) but by and large it helps masquerade the mind-numbing stupidity of the content.

And then at some point - and I know films aren't shot chronologically, but I suspect this one to some extent was - it just isn't interesting directorially speaking anymore. It felt like, directorially, it went from "plan the shit out of this and make it amazing" to "let's just get the fuck through the day and make sure we've got this covered". It's not that it's bad as such, it's just undistinguished. But given that it was the only thing I gave a shit about, it was slightly ruinous.

Although - to be fair - there is a moment near the end that strips back all the technobabble and international scope and everything else and just has two sisters being honest with each other that suddenly hooked me back into the story. For twenty seconds, you get emotional access. Then it's gone.

*I feel like I should unpack this just a bit, given that Lisbeth Salander is a "strong female character" and it probably sounds a bit flippant/dismissive. I kept thinking back to comments Hal Hartley made about TRUST, and how, in trying to not to objectify Adrienne Shelly's character, he actually idealized her in a completely different way that's just as unreal. I'm paraphrasing, but there's something about Salander that sits uncomfortably with me as a male fetish concept of a strong woman character. Maybe if any of the novels had been written by a woman, or any of the films had been written by women, or any of the films had been directed by women, I'd feel differently. At least this one takes some steps - Salander's at the centre instead of Blomkvist, and a key moment near the effect reflects on men taking away the agency for women telling their own stories, but still. For what it's worth, Claire Foy's probably the best Lisbeth yet, even if between this and FIRST MAN I never need to see her smoking on screen again.

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