Claire Foy leaves the Queen and The Crown well behind her in this thrilling action movie. 3/5 stars
She takes on an entirely different role as punk-Goth computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in this reboot for Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s iconic character.
Foy's heroine remains the ferocious avenger previously played on screen by Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara, but here she is less a feminist vigilante, more a kick-ass secret agent in the vein of Bond or Bourne.
Based on a sequel to Larsson's original trilogy written by David Lagercrantz, this movie finds Lisbeth contacted by Frans Balder (a curious role for The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant), a jittery ex-employee of America's National Security Agency who has had second thoughts about his creation of a computer program that can hack into the world's nuclear weapons. He wants Lisbeth to steal the software and destroy it. Unfortunately, top NSA agent Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield) is also after the program – and so is a deadly Russian crime ring, the Spiders.
The tattooed Russian thugs turn out to have a connection with Lisbeth's traumatic past, a reminder of the abusive childhood that was such an important part of her psychology in Larsson’s original books. A few flashbacks and one key character aside, however, director Fede Alvarez is more interested in Foy's Lisbeth letting rip as an action heroine. And she’s very good at it. She dodges fireballs, jumps out of tall buildings and races across a frozen lake on her Ducati, not to mention taking on foes twice her size with her trusty Taser.
The movie's emphasis on action means there's nothing much to do for her old comrade, campaigning journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason in the role previously taken by Daniel Craig and Michael Nyqvist). He's pretty much a cipher, pushed to the sidelines in favour of Stanfield's US box-office-friendly American agent, a crack-shot sniper, it transpires, as well as a genius hacker.
Fans of Larsson's originals will miss Lisbeth's spiky complexity and social conscience and feel it a shame Foy hasn't had the chance to dig deeper into her character's tormented past. However, action movie fans will find it a really satisfying thrill ride.
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A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.