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The Girl Who Played with Fire(2009)
Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, has made his living exposing the crooked and corrupt practices of establishment Swedish figures. So when a young journalist approaches him with a meticulously researched thesis about sex trafficking in Sweden and those in high office who abuse underage girls, Blomkvist immediately throws himself into the investigation.
For more about The Girl Who Played with Fire and the The Girl Who Played with Fire Blu-ray release, see the The Girl Who Played with Fire Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on October 30, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Andersson, Michalis Koutsogiannakis, Annika Hallin
Director: Daniel Alfredson
» See full cast & crew
The Girl Who Played with Fire Blu-ray Review
Though it remains less engrossing than the first chapter in the series, the sequel still emerged as one of the elite mystery-thrillers of 2009.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, October 30, 2010
Considering the tremendous buzz that accompanied the domestic Blu-ray release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the follow up entry in the series received a surprisingly low-key reception among major retailers. Perhaps they assumed folks would wait on the inevitable complete trilogy in the first week of 2011, or simply discounted the potential popularity of Lisbeth Salandar's ongoing adventure, but either way I was shocked at the lack of build-up for what should have been a highly anticipated sequel. For those who may stumble onto this review with no knowledge of the complete series, The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second installment in the Millennium Trilogy, written by best-selling author Stieg Larsson. Published posthumously following his death in 2004, the trilogy garnered international praise among critics and was eventually picked up for a Swedish film adaptation by Yellow Bird. The first entry in the film trilogy was released on Blu-ray back in July of this year and the third will follow in approximately two months time. To be clear, this is not the widely reported Hollywood adaptation of the novels (due in late 2011), which seem a bit unnecessary given the strength of the original Swedish productions. I guess there will always be unfortunate circumstances where someone misses out on something truly remarkable due to their distaste for subtitles, so perhaps there may still be a market for the eventual English language release. However, why mess with perfection?
Picking up one year after the events of the prior film, we're reintroduced to Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), as he continues his crusade against the tyrants of society through his published work in Millenium magazine. After multiple attempts to contact Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) following the Vanger case, Blomkvist entered into a secret relationship with the chief editor of Millenium, but remains emotionally attached to the girl he cannot find. When Lisbeth's fingerprints show up on the murder weapon in a double homicide that left one of his own reporters slain, Blomkvist is the only person willing to vouch for Lisbeth's innocence, as he begins his own investigation into the murders. What he soon discovers is a network of powerful individuals protecting a sex-trade operation in the heart of Sweden, which Lisbeth seems inexplicably connected to. Racing to piece together the clues before the police find Lisbeth, Blomkvist must rely on his rebellious ex-partner's own investigation into the crimes she's been accused of, while simultaneously unearthing dark secret from her past.
The Girl Who Played with Fire is an interesting film to compare to the first entry, since the plot diverges heavily from the concept of the initial installment, but remains surprisingly similar in tone and pacing. Beginning with the differences, I was somewhat disappointed by the decision to separate Blomkvist and Salander for the bulk of the runtime. After building such strong chemistry during The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it's a shame they aren't reunited earlier in the sequel and given the opportunity to solve another mystery as a team. I can understand the need to create separation in an effort to prevent them from becoming a full-blown item (as we imagined might happen in the first film), but I felt my level of investment in both characters took a subtle step backwards.
The second difference that prevents The Girl Who Played with Fire from reaching the heights of its predecessor can be found in the actual plotline of the film. Unlike the investigation during the first entry, this case directly involves Salander and her past, but never develops into a legitimate mystery. This is a shame considering the thrilling set-up centered on top officials with involvement in a local sex-trade, since we can't help but anticipate a grand conclusion along the lines of the Vanger case. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the character building element of a story focused on the main protagonist (especially since it ties in nicely with events from the first film), but the overall impact of the production never approached the level of perfection found in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Shifting gears a little, it's worth mentioning that although the actors remain the same throughout the trilogy (thank goodness), the second and third installments were directed by Daniel Alfredson (replacing Niels Arden Oplev, who chose not to return for the full trilogy). Most folks aren't likely to possess extensive knowledge regarding the Swedish film industry, but Daniel Alfredson has a younger brother named Tomas, who directed the critically acclaimed 2008 film Let the Right One In. I'm sure there are plenty of other respected Swedish filmmakers who deserve praise, but the Alfredson brothers appear to be siblings worth keeping your eyes on in upcoming years.
The Girl Who Played with Fire Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 18Mbps), The Girl Who Played with Fire offers a reasonably proficient visual experience despite the presence of several less-than-ideal nuances. Beginning with a discussion of clarity, the film contains a reasonable level of depth and precision during the well-lit sequences, but there's an unfortunate drop off in the consistency of fine object detail during nighttime shots. Part of the problem lies in subpar shade differentiation that plagues such sequences, leaving shadow details underdeveloped and lacking in definition (a perfect example is the lesbian sex scene around the 20 minute mark). The other part of the equation is a dependence on orange and yellow lighting in most of the darker shots, which rarely expose every detail caught by the indirect light. Unfortunately, these intricacies in the visual presentation temper my enthusiasm for what's otherwise a fairly strong transfer, which is a shame when you consider they're merely stylistic choices on the part of the filmmakers. Though I never saw the film theatrically, I believe what we're witnessing on the Blu-ray presentation is a faithful portrayal of the cinematographer's intentions.
Moving away from the weaknesses of the low-light sequences, there's not much to complain about. Color accuracy appears natural and unaltered in daylight scenes, there's no edge enhancement to speak of, and we find enough subtle film grain to eliminate any suspicion of DNR application. All in all, this is transfer that does a lot of things right, but fails to break into the upper echelon of high definition potential.
The Girl Who Played with Fire Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Those who've read my prior review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo may recall my suggestion that viewers move beyond the presence of two lossy tracks and give the Blu-ray a chance. Apparently that was then, and this is now. I'm not sure what changed in my viewing of The Girl Who Played with Fire, but I continued to find elements in the Swedish audio presentation that required the added benefit of a lossless offering. For example, listen to the car chase sequence around the midpoint of the film, when Lisbeth's boxing instructor pursues a large van down a crowded city street. Combining the rumble of a shifting engine with the whoosh of cars flying by, the sequence has the makings of an adrenaline-infused kick to the jaw, effectively breaking up the more cerebral moments in the film. Instead, the effects sound decent enough to remind us of what we're missing, but fail to place viewers directly in the heart of the action. This essentially translates into a presentation that shouldn't necessarily be labeled a disappointment, but barely deserves a passing grade (which is mostly earned through reasonable vocal clarity and adequate volume balance in the dialog).
Though I sampled the English dubbed option, I found the voice acting a bit weak for my liking. I can confirm the technical quality is on par with the Swedish language track, but would recommend viewers stick with native language if at all possible.
The Girl Who Played with Fire Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Fans longing for a dense supplemental package will likely be disappointed to discover the weak selection of value-added material included on the disc. All we're given is a series of trailers for each film in the Millennium Trilogy, and a handful of trailers for other upcoming releases from Music Box Films.
The Girl Who Played with Fire Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Although the storyline of The Girl Who Played with Fire pales in comparison with the first installment in the trilogy, the strength of the acting by Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist remains strong as ever, delivering a fitting sequel in what's emerging as one of the greatest mystery trilogies of modern cinema. I personally can't wait for the upcoming Blu-ray release of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, though I hope Music Box Films eventually come to their senses and offer viewers a lossless version of the Swedish language track.
The Girl Who Played with Fire: Other Editions
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