One thing you have to accept from the outset is that there is no Daniel Craig or Rooney Mara in this follow-up which is a shame as they were both brilliant in the original film. Also, for some reason, the follow-up to the original book by Stieg Larsson was dropped in favour of this film drawn from a book involving the same characters written by David Lagercrantz. It also received very mixed reviews at the time of its release – again, I think because of the fall-out of no Craig or Mara. If you can get over the change of actors and just watch the film for what it is, and not in comparison to the original, then I think it is a pretty decent film. Claire Foy is excellent in the role of hacker Lisbeth Salander.
The story starts in Stockholm, Sweden, vigilante hacker Lisbeth Salander is hired by computer programmer Frans Balder to retrieve Firefall, a program capable of accessing the world’s nuclear codes that he developed for the National Security Agency. Balder believes it is too dangerous to exist. Lisbeth successfully retrieves Firefall from the NSA’s servers, attracting the attention of agent Edwin Needham, but is unable to unlock it. The program is later stolen from her by mercenaries led by Jan Holtser, who also attempts to kill Lisbeth. When she does not attend their scheduled rendezvous, Balder mistakenly believes Lisbeth decided to keep Firefall for herself and contacts Gabrielle Grane, the deputy director of the Swedish Security Service (Säpo), who moves Balder and his young son August to a safehouse. Meanwhile, Needham tracks the unauthorized login to Stockholm and arrives to seek Lisbeth and Firefall.
Lisbeth asks her hacker friend Plague for help and they contact Lisbeth’s former lover, investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist, for help identifying her assailants. Blomkvist learns Holtser previously worked for Lisbeth’s late father, crime lord Alexander Zalachenko, and is now affiliated with an elusive international crime syndicate known as “The Spiders”. Lisbeth puts surveillance on Balder’s safe-house, and when it is attacked, intervenes to protect Balder and his son. She is intercepted by Holtser, who kills Balder, frames Lisbeth and kidnaps August. Lisbeth pursues them in a stolen police car and is able to rescue August and take him to another safe house, where she confirms that he is the only one capable of unlocking Firefall.
Elsewhere, Needham locates Lisbeth’s girlfriend Sofia and persuades her to arrange a meeting between them, intending to lure Lisbeth into a trap, but Lisbeth manages to evade him and Needham is later arrested by Grane. Lisbeth helps him escape in exchange for Needham safely escorting August back to the United States to be reunited with his mother, and begrudgingly agrees to give him Firefall as well. The Spiders later attack Lisbeth’s safe house and kidnap August once again. Lisbeth and Blomkvist manage to escape, and Lisbeth learns that their leader is her twin sister Camilla Salander, whom Lisbeth believed to be dead. When they were children, Lisbeth decided to run away from their abusive father, and when Camilla hesitated, Lisbeth left her behind. After years of torture, Camilla faked her suicide and went underground to form the Spiders.
Camilla and the Spiders take August to her base of operations at the sisters’ childhood home. Grane had hired the Spiders to retrieve Firefall for her and informed them of Balder’s location, but Camilla kills Grane instead. Lisbeth, Blomkvist, Plague and Needham track August to the building, and Lisbeth breaks in to give Plague access to the building’s surveillance system, but is caught and taken to the room where August is being held, where she learns that Blomkvist has also been captured. When Camilla threatens to torture him, Lisbeth tells August to trust her and reveal the password to Firefall. Camilla then tries to suffocate Lisbeth by wrapping her in a rubber coating and suctioning out all the air, while describing the abuse she suffered at the hands of their father.
Armed with a sniper rifle and guided by Plague, Needham eliminates Camilla’s henchmen, saving August and Blomkvist, while Camilla escapes with the laptop containing Firefall. Lisbeth escapes. Holtser, having been injected with a poison that induces blindness, stumbles around in a forest and gets hit by Camilla’s car, causing the vehicle to plunge into the woods. An injured Camilla escapes from the crash site. Lisbeth pursues her to a nearby cliff, where Camilla tearfully asks why she never returned for her; Lisbeth responds by telling her sister that she, Camilla, chose to remain with their family rather than escape with Lisbeth. It is then that Camilla realizes the error of her ways, but she ends up committing suicide by jumping off the cliff – despite her sister’s objections; though she mourns Camilla’s death, Lisbeth retrieves the laptop in the snow.
On his way back to the United States with August, Needham attempts to access Firefall, only to discover Lisbeth has already destroyed it, citing it is what Balder would have wanted, while Lisbeth later burns down her childhood home to destroy all traces of her father.