VOD film review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web
Ivan Radford | On 05, Jul 2019
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Claire Foy, Stephen Merchant
Watch The Girl in the Spider’s Web online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Lisbeth Salander, whatever your opinions on her backstory and the treatment of it both in Stieg Larsson’s books and the film adaptations of it, has always been an interesting character. She’s flawed, capable, smart, antisocial and doesn’t care what people expect her to do. Whether played by Noomi Rapace or Rooney Mara, she‘s always been a survivor, but an unpredictable one who’s unafraid to risk seeming sympathetic. With Mara, who played Salander in David Fincher’s take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, walking away from the computer, Claire Foy is now the one stepping into the hacker’s shoes – and, for the first time, the result feels disappointingly conventional.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is based on the novel of the same name by David Lagercrantz, which, in turn, is based on the characters created by Larsson – a daisy chain of interpretations that gives you a clue as to how far things have moved from Larsson’s original book. Here, the reclusive hacker has been reimagined as a keyboard warrior for hire, the kind of antihero who rides motorbikes through set pieces and fights shadowy organisations. James Bond, but computers. Mission: Impossible, but internet.
We catch up with Lisbeth as she’s hired by a programmer (Stephen Merchant) to retrieve a cyber MacGuffin that can access all of the world’s nuclear codes – just the thing cyber terrorists would love to get their hands on. And so Lisbeth finds herself under attack by a mysterious group and pursued by the NSA – and turns to investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist to help identify the people involved.
Quite why Lisbeth, a resourceful and connected hacker who was previously hired by Mikael to do research, would seek out his assistance isn’t really justified. Equally implausible is a subplot that emerges involving Lisbeth’s family history, which finds a way to make her past even darker, seemingly for the sake of it. The script, written by Álvarez, Steven Knight, and Jay Basu, moves at a solid enough pace, and Álvarez knows his way around an action sequence, but it all rings false, psychologically and emotionally – leaving Claire Foy with little to grapple with, and us with little to remember outside of a generic story that could have come from any B-movie thriller.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.