After a dragon tattoo (twice), a fire and a hornet’s nest, this time it’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web. And now the girl is The Crown‘s Claire Foy – breaking well and truly away from the part she’s best known for. This sequel/reboot sees the English actress follow in the footsteps of Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara as the eponymous hacker, investigator and vigilante.
She’s decent enough in the role, but her character seems to have had her rough edges smoothed out, making her blander than previous, spikier incarnations. Consciously or not, Lisbeth Salander is more mature, confident and talkative this time around. Conversely, her long-time associate Mikael Blomkvist now comes in the younger, hunkier form of Sverrir Gudnason. However, he too loses some of his quirks and there’s a distinct feeling he’s not actually needed that much.
The film, pleasingly after #MeToo, belongs to Foy’s Salander – and she undoubtedly makes for the kind of iconic, capable female protagonist we need more of. We also get a woman in the villain role here, with Sylvia Hoeks as Lisbeth’s estranged sister. This dynamic elevates the stakes above the otherwise Bourne-like story about a stolen computer programme, and gives the biggest insight yet into Lisbeth’s motivations for targeting men who abuse women.
While the cyber espionage plot doesn’t withstand any close scrutiny of the contrivances that could best be described as “hacker magic”, the gadgets employed do at least make for some inventive and narrative-advancing sequences. Director Fede Álvarez, in just his third feature, keeps things pacy and easy to follow.
Spider’s Web is a solid but ultimately mediocre thriller, not as hard-hitting or thought-provoking as earlier entries in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. With no requirement to have seen or read those though, this welcomes newcomers with open arms and could provide lift-off for a stalled franchise.
CAST: Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant
DIRECTOR: Fede Álvarez
WRITERS: Jay Basu & Fede Alvarez and Steven Knight (screenplay), David Lagercrantz (novel)
SYNOPSIS: Computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist find themselves caught in a web of spies, cybercriminals and corrupt government officials.