Let's get this out of the way; "The Girl in the Spider’s Web" doesn't remotely come close to replicating the artful resonance that David Fincher gave to his 2011 film "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Hell, Fede Alvarez's film can't quite muster enough quality to stack up with the first two Swedish films, directed by Niels Arden Oplev based on Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Swedish novels (The third was a dud). However, I cannot dismiss the nerve-wrecking tension that is packed in 'Spider's Web,' a grisly 117 minute pulp noir.
Oscar nominee Rooney Mara is not back in the role of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace played Salander in the Swedish films); Instead we get Claire Foy, a brilliant British actress known for her invaluable work as Queen Elizabeth on BBC's "The Crown." 'Spider's Web,' based on the 2015 novel by David Lagercrantz, (who was hired after Larsson’s death to continue the Millennium series) has Alvarez and co-screenwriters Jay Basu and Steven Knight infusing delicious pulp verve into their film.
Alvarez's film starts off with a flashback, we see a teenage Lisbeth escaping from her incestuous father, but stranding her sister Camilla with pervy daddy in the process. The film hints that Salander's life's work of punishing 'men who hurt women' derived from the very beginnings of her twisted childhood. Enter, for greater effect, Salander's first male victim in the film, a cheating husband who has a knack for beating up hookers he hires. Salander uses a taser and rope to give him a valuable lesson, and that's just the start of some of the perverse action to come.
The thrills in 'Spider's Web' are compulsively watchable, Alvarez, using cinematographer Pedro Luque’s slick camerawork, thrusts us in the world of The Spiders, a gang desperately looking to get their paws on software which could hack the world's nuclear capabilities. Lisbeth is trying to protect the program and its creator, Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), but as soon as he's iced, she has to beat the clock and protect Balder's six-year-old son August (Christopher Convery), who is the only person that knows the complicated codes to launch the attack. Engulfed into all of this underground world of hacking is Edwin Needham (a fantastic Lakeith Stanfield, of "Atlanta" fame), an NSA wiz that tries to nab Lisbeth after he is hacked at NSA headquarters.
Foy infuses Salander with her own DNA, finding the essence that makes this 21st century character so great; any other actress may have balked at the over-stuffed screenplay and gotten lost in this relentless shuffle of cards, but Foy manages to break through and have us follow her every move. The old elements of the other films are all back, this isn't an original film by any stretch, and the books' reliance on coincidence and chance is on full display as well in Alavarez film. If Fincher broke through all of that, Alvarez struggles to successfully depict the more convoluted parts of the story. Nevertheless, the action he stages is magnificently rendered, the gritty and dark tones he brought to his excellent 2015 horror film "Don't Breathe" were no fluke. The story might not feel as fresh the third time around but Lisbeth Salander is a character that feels just right for the current moment. [B]