3. The Girl Who Played With Fire
While not as radical a course-correction as The Girl in the Spider's Web is, director Daniel Alfredson's The Girl Who Played With Fire still shifted the series to deliver a beautifully shot and entertaining mystery thriller. The film only somewhat downplays Dragon Tattoo's graphic sexual violence as it sends Lisbeth Salander on a manhunt to clear her name when she's framed for murder, with Mikael Blomkvist rallying to his ex-lover's side. The laconic hacker cleans up her look for much of the film as well, abandoning her severe goth style as she is forced to dive into her tragic past and discovers her long-lost father is Russian gangster Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), who is behind the conspiracy to frame Salander. It all culminates in a brutal confrontation between father and daughter (as well as Lisbeth's hulking half-brother), which leaves our heroine shot multiple times, beaten, and buried alive as she takes on her evil family.
Eschewing their equal partnership, Lisbeth takes center stage in The Girl Who Played With Fire as Blomkvist gets a supporting role; apart for much of the film, Mikael finally learns about Lisbeth's past and also finds the DVD of her rape at the hands of Nils Bjurman - to his credit, he couldn't sit through watching it. This second film in the Swedish trilogy contains more action and reveals a tremendous amount of information about Lisbeth Salander's tragic life story, which only makes her more endearing.
2. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, the 2009 Swedish adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hews very closely to the Stieg Larsson novel as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is hired by millionaire Henrik Vanger (Sven Bertil-Taube) to investigate the cold case disappearance of his niece Harriet decades prior. Blomkvist teams up surveillance researcher and expert hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a victim of rape and sexual abuse, who takes a personal interest in the Vanger case. The duo become partners as well as lovers as they uncover the Vanger family's buried legacy of torture, rape, incest, Nazism, and ritual murder and find their lives threatened in the process.
The 2009 Dragon Tattoo was a critically-acclaimed international smash hit that won the BAFTA for Best Film Not In The English Language among other accolades. Rapace is incredible as Lisbeth Salander and she and Nyqvist, as the older but equally morally ambiguous of the pair, share a palpable chemistry. The film does not shy away from graphically depicting the horrible rape and abuse Lisbeth suffers at the hands of her legal guardian Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson), which turns out to be a pivotal event not just to this film but to the overall trilogy but is definitely difficult to sit through.
1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Billed as "The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas" in its trailers, David Fincher took on the task of adapting Stieg Larsson's first novel and outdoing the popular Swedish version - and he succeeded mightily. Fincher resisted any attempt to transplant the story to the United States and instead remade The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Sweden, with Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara, who transformed herself into Lisbeth Salander. Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillian excised whole subplots of Larsson's story and refocused Dragon Tattoo as an exploration of Salander's psyche and the tenuous trust and attraction that formed between her and Mikhael as they conducted their investigation into the disappearance of Harriet Vanger.
Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo didn't flinch in depicting the graphic sex and violence of Larsson's tale, nor did he sanitize it for American audiences, which perhaps contributed to its box office underperformance (in truth, Fincher's film also hit theaters after the interest in Larsson's novels had peaked). Still, Craig was in between James Bond movies, in top form, and perfectly synched with an incendiary lead performance by Mara. With an all-star cast that included Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, and Joely Richardson providing support, David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo stands as the best film of the Lisbeth Salander franchise.
- The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018) release date: Nov 09, 2018