Reviewers of a certain age have to pick action films carefully and The Girl with the Spider’s Web more or less fits the bill.
For far too long, the big action blockbusters – the Mission Impossibles, the Bond flicks, the Pirates of the Caribbean – relied far too much on three or four terribly expensive, very extensive, very complicated and highly unbelievable action sequences that, while they successfully melted down whatever state-of- the-art CGI was in use at the time and chewed big hunks out of production budgets, left far too long in between for the talkathons or mushy romantic stuff. Why do some directors and writers feel some character development is necessary when clearly none is required at all. They’re action/ thriller/comedy/unintentional comedy/not-so-dramas, for goodness sake.
The quiet talk times are sometimes bearable in top-shelf action flicks. Who wasn’t charmed in the first big Zorro remake when Antonious Badarse, Zeta Lightburn Jones and Tony Hopkins sparked against one another with some fun dialogue. Even Johnny Depp in his first outing as Jack Sparrow was watchable before his pisstakes of Keith Richards became laughable.
It’s when these down times in action thrillers, be they grand or bland, start to bore that a lot of snooze time beckons before the Dolby speakers signal the need to wake up and sit up for the next big-bang sequence.
Luckily, the car chases, the exploding buildings, the fist and gun fights – many of which don’t require a lot of dosh to depict so I’m not sure quite how it cost more than $40 million to make – in TGWTSW come with reasonable regularity to ensure the fitful sleeps in-between are kept to a bare minimum.
Those little nod-offs still come, of course, and they have pluses and minuses. The main minus is that you can’t really let people know much about what’s happening script-wise as the movie unwinds – or unravels. On the plus side, no spoiler alert is needed because you can’t give one, those embarrassing snorts or throat gurgles as you come to are kept to a minimum and as mentioned earlier, afternoon naps no matter how fitful are always welcome at that certain age I mentioned earlier.
But what I think I can glean from the flick in my conscious moments – and memo to self: I must cut out going to the movies mid-afternoon when a nanny nap is normally taken – is that Lisbeth Salander (Clare Foy) is still a computer hacker in need of serious severe treatment for emotional and sexual abuse back when and is back to punting from the Paddington end after her romance with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) has long since flared and fizzled. Maybe.
Lisbeth hacks some evil plan to destroy the world and the rest of the film is all about her battles with some evil people call the Spiders who will stop at no amount of action sequences to kill her and keep it for themselves. I’m not sure which side most of her co-stars were on but once again, this is an action thriller so that’s not all that important right now.
The final good news is that the ending doesn’t hint at a sequel – not an easily identifiable one anyway.
Finally, spare a thought for Tom Cruise. I’ve gleaned from industry publications that Cruise, by then aware that he was going to lose his role in the Jack Reacher series, desperately auditioned for Lizbeth while brilliantly disguised as a woman. Despite wearing high heels, sporting some temporary tatts and acting his tits off in several screen tests, he was still deemed too short for the role.
The Girl with the Spider’s Web (M)
Stars: Clare Foy, Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant and Vicky Krieps
Director: Fede Álvarez
Script by Steven Knight, Fede Álvarez and Jay Basu, barely recognisable, apparently, from the book of the same name by David Lagercrantz