09th Nov2018

‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Claire Foy, Sylvia Hoeks, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Merchant, Cameron Britton, Vicky Krieps, Sverrir Gudnason, Volker Bruch, Mikael Persbrandt, Claes Bang, Andreja Pejic | Written by Jay Basu, Fede Alvarez, Steven Knight | Directed by Fede Alvarez


Fede Alvarez’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fifth entry into the famed Stieg Larsson franchise and the second attempt at creating a “successful” American revitalised product after the somewhat lukewarm financial success of David Fincher’s Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara starring remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, released in 2011.

Craig, Fincher and Mara are gone and to replace them seven years after the fact is Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez at the helm and The Crown star Claire Foy taking the role of Lisbeth Salander. And while this sequel is a welcoming return to the big screen, with the relentless nihilism and candid horror on offer, it is by far the most watered down and oddly mainstream intended formula – that works as both beneficial and a hinderance of this 2018 reboot/revitalisation.

The good begins and somewhat ends with the performances showcased on screen. Claire Foy is once again fully committed to her onscreen role as seen previously in her latest performances in First Man and Unsane. The emotional weight and baggage of Salander are brought to the forefront strongly with her visual depth, both engaging and oddly inviting, to uncover such haunting trauma – very rarely shown sadly through lacking flashback. Sylvia Hoeks, as Camilla Salander, impresses hot off the heels from her villainous role as Luv in Blade Runner 2049. Her screen presence is eerie and delightfully wicked in its haunting effectiveness but drastically underutilised for both her acting capability and in terms of the story, to create a formidable and compelling villain. Lakeith Stanfield impresses in another drastic turn of character and injects a certain humour, with a role that doesn’t stretch his capabilities as an actor nor necessarily creates a great deal of substance within the film, aside to create a substantial effort in sprouting a James Bond/Jason Bourne hybrid of sorts within the story.

It is this melding of the newfound action genre in the series that ultimately creates a mixed response of sorts. On the one hand, it’s somewhat genius to tone down the anarchic themes while not getting rid of them totally, using them only in a diluted fashion and inserting a more frantic and action-oriented palette. Clearly implemented for a far wider gross reach, that conceptually works adequately and feels a natural addition, never overly jarring. The issue that arises from this decision is the team behind the feature doesn’t completely understand the genre or material present.

The screenplay/story is a slow snail speed of development on the page but injected with an excessive amount pace and strange action sequences that don’t quite feel naturally paced, or placed to the correct and engaging example of even the most standard action contemporaries. The issues of the pacing lead to a whole host of fallout. Most significantly is the extraordinary lack of depth all around in characters and arcs. The film simply and sadly can’t wait or let any moment sink in for significant weight and impact on screen. Swiftly rushing in a frantic manner to move onto the next sequence that only blur into what came before it.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story (what a cumbersome title!) is out in US cinemas now, the film is released in the UK on November 21st.


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