From Elizabeth II to Lisbeth Salander – a Queen whose every move is curbed by convention to an alienated, Swedish punk action heroine who plays by her own rules. It’s the sort of mercurial role change that all actors live for, but few can actually pull off.
Claire Foy can. And with her award-winning performances in TV’s The Crown behind her, she’s now made one of the most startlingly original characters in recent cinema her own.
Noomi Rapace, who played Salander in the Swedish trilogy based on late author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, and Rooney Mara (in David Fincher’s US remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) are hard acts to follow. Foy does so by bringing the emotionally elusive hacker much more to the surface. She also gamely follows new director Fede Alvarez in taking the series into more muscular action territory.
This fifth Millennium film is the first adapted from a novel by David Lagercrantz, charged by Larsson’s estate to pick up the baton. Lisbeth is now free, independent and wealthy (due to her hacking exploits). And she’s still using her wide-ranging skillset to torment Stockholm’s male abusers of women. But when she puts her vigilantism to one side to relieve America’s security services of a powerful weapons system, she attracts the unwelcome attentions not just of the Yanks, but her sister Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks), who’s taken on both their late father’s psychopathic tendencies and his underworld business.
Thus, like all Millennium plotting, this converges a wider conspiracy with Lisbeth’s need to exorcise her family demons.
Foy has an innate edge to her, a fraying around the edges of her face that she turns up whenever a role requires. Here she perfectly captures Salander’s monosyllabic repression, as well as the no-nonsense physicality, trusty Tazer by her side. And like the Royal wardrobe, Salander’s punk chic fits her like a glove.
As for the film itself, this iteration is less Nordic noir than mainstream action movie with over-obvious echoes of both Bond and Bourne. Though the international intrigue feels rote and regrettable, there’s no doubting the terrific styling of the production and the panache with which Alvarez delivers his action set pieces, which are many, varied and ingenious.
Sverrir Gudnason (Borg McEnroe) is under-used as investigative journalist Mikel Blomkvist, Lisbeth’s ally and sometime lover. But Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks, the android villainess in Blade Runner 2049, is again alluringly creepy as Camilla, a bleach blonde killer in a red dress.
This review first appeared in The Times