The Girl in the Spider's Web is a reboot of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, with some globe-threatening villainy added in to make it a bigger, though not necessarily better, story. A computer hacker teams up with a journalist who can throw down when needed to dig deep enough to get themselves into trouble.
The film whimsically steals bits and pieces from better action/spy movies, then asks the question "what if our quirky young female protagonist did all these things?" The result is a familiar beatdown of an evil syndicate by a lone hero and friends.
Claire Foy (The Crown, First Man) puts her heart - and other parts - into the enigmatic role of Lisbeth Salander, a bisexual vigilante with a penchant for tattoos, piercings, and violence. Her black attire, chain smoking, and fancy motorcycle may just give her the power to mercilessly beat people. When her mysterious past starts to surface, she chases down a blast from her past, who has now become her nemesis.
Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049, Whatever Happens) plays said mystery woman, Camilla Salander. She has become the head of an evil syndicate called the Spiders, and the character has apparently been reading some 'how-to' manuals on extreme violence.
NSA operative Edwin Needham is done justice by Lakeith Stanfield (Selma, Get Out). Edwin is hot on Lisbeth's trail, and adds a needed element of racing against the clock for our hapless heroine.
Meanwhile, Lisbeth is temporarily reunited with her old pal, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, played here by Sverrir Gudnason (Blowfly Park, Borg vs. McEnroe). Like the others, his character has been ironed out to allow a margin of darkness to remain without being too over-the-top for a mainstream audience. His handy skillset becomes useful just in the nick of time, but we don't stick with him in the long run.
While it might seem like there's a lot going on here, the movie is mostly just scenes of Lisbeth running from one peril to the next. In typical James Bond fashion, there are plenty of good set pieces getting blown up and a nice transition from danger in the city to danger in the countryside. The strange paradox is that while Lisbeth does not go on a murdering spree against the baddies, she also doesn't seem phased by all the treachery around her. It could be a result of the character's troubled past, or maybe it was too much trouble to create meaningful villains who are actually able to scare her.
On the technical end of things, all three stories in the Millennium trilogy were filmed in the original author's native Sweden. Only The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was filmed in Hollywood, and its dismal box office showing caused everyone involved to jump ship and abandon the rest of the series. For the American audience, note that two other books have been completely skipped over to get to this story.
The novel version of The Girl in the Spider's Web was written by David Lagercrantz, taking over the Millennium series after Steig Larsson's death. Lagercrantz has written another installment after this one and is set to continue indefinitely. Fans of this series can at least look forward to the possibility of a new string of Girl movies.
Directed and co-written for the screen by horror veteran Fede Alvarez (the Evil Dead reboot, Don't Breathe,) The Girl in the Spider's Web has a level of darkness and thrill required to portray the source material. Alvarez skillfully, though not artfully, handles the mood of what's really going on here.
Whether you're looking for some cheap action thrills, are hard pressed to find out what happened in the rest of the series without actually reading the book, or are just a die-hard Girl fan, this installment makes for a fun watch.