The Girl Who Played With Fire Burns Up The Screen 

Lisbeth is back ... with a vengeance

The first thing you need to know about The Girl Who Played with Fire is that you won't be lost if you haven't seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. However, this second installment in the trilogy will definitely make you want to go back and see the first.

When Swedish author Stieg Larsson died in 2004, his posthumous gift to the literary world was the unpublished Millennium trilogy, a series of crime novels that targeted misogyny, journalists without investigative spines and a bottomless well of Cold War ugliness.

When the production company Yellow Bird decided to bring the novels to the big screen, even while many of the books sat atop best-seller lists, an international phenomenon was born. Millions have seen the movie in 25 nations across the globe.

After watching The Girl who Played with Fire, it is doubly convincing that the lead character, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is one of the best literary anti-heroines of this generation. She is a genius with computers but completely ignorant of human behavior. Her tortured soul and bruised body neither slow her down nor dull her senses as she is once again teamed with Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a middle-aged journalist who writes for fictional Millennium magazine.

The film contains more character development than an entire season of CSI. With its dense plot, it is akin to Helen Mirren's Prime Suspect mini-series. The Girl who Played with Fire includes a triple murder, counter-spies and a villainous blonde killing machine. In about two hours, major secrets are revealed and an understanding and appreciation for Lisbeth and Mikael increases 10-fold. In spite of mounting evidence implicating Lisbeth in grisly crimes, Mikael never wavers in his trust of her, and his dogged determination to discover the truth is inspiring.

Modern day Stockholm is the setting for the trilogy, but don't think for a moment that this is simply a Swedish film. Major credit to director Daniel Alfredson for presuming that his audience is smart and savvy enough to connect with universal themes of corruption, loss and revenge. Cinematographer Peter Mokrosinski frames the Scandinavian twilight with deep orange streetlights and blue velvet clouds. It's an effective tribute to the best of film noir and easy to imagine what The Girl Who Played with Fire would look like in black and white.

Ultimately, the question that may measure the film's box office success will be: Is it as good as the first movie? But that's the wrong question. Rather, it should be: Does it complement the first film? Absolutely. And maybe more importantly, following a breathtaking finale, it really sets the table for the third and final film, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

Hollywood has decided to co-opt Tattoo, with Daniel Craig and Robin Wright already attached to an English-language remake. Carey Mulligan, Ellen Page and Kristen Stewart were rumored to be up for the title role, but it looks like newcomer Rooney Mara will be playing the part of Lisbeth. Unless there's a total re-imagining of plot and setting, a remake could be a horrible idea, simply because the originals are so good.

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The Girl Who Played With Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)
Rated NR · 129 min. · 2010
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Writer: Jonas Frykberg and Stieg Larsson
Producer: Lone Korslund and Peter Nadermann
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Georgi Staykov and Sofia Ledarp
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