The Girl Who Played With Fire:
While the first film could stand very much on its own two feet as a solitary narrative, this middle portion of the Millennium Trilogy feels very much the set-up for what's to come in the closing chapter. Furthermore, some of the style of the first film is lacking (it's definitely a shame the filmmakers moved away from the 2.35:1 aspect ratio afforded to the original, which proved more suitable), and it lacks the sense of momentum and drive of the first - but again, this circles back to this being the necessary set-up for the third film.
That said, if you view the three films as one complete entity, then Fire becomes the second act of something bigger and more meaningful. In this context it's definitely acceptable, but even on it's own - when it doesn't equal the superb original - it still has a few surprises up its sleeve. More of a functional, required second chapter, than a stand alone piece of dark entertainment - here's hoping The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest provides the goods for a satisfying closer.
This was one of the films shown during my film degree - on the Film Noir course - but I didn't attend the screening (my essay was on another film - Out of the Past, and I'd already honed in on what I planned to cover in the exam). I always felt a bit guilty about that, for one thing it's often observed as one of the best - if not the best - example of the Noir genre. So it's always stuck in my mind ever since, and I'm glad to have finally gotten around to it - and indeed, Billy Wilder's twisted tale is a damned fine example of the genre.
An Insurance Salesman falls into the web of a blonde bombshell femme fatale, who's tired of her supposedly slap-happy husband and wants him offed. So begins a beautifully crafted (thrillingly so, at times) ever-darkening, and ever-twisting tale of insurance fraud turned most foul. Coming hot off of Team Bondi's L.A. Noire, it's easy to see where the inspiration for one of the late-in-the-game characters comes from (even down to the architecture of his place of work), and well, if you're going to immitate, immitate the best.
While some Film Noirs are deeply convoluted at times (The Big Sleep), Double Indemnity's ace-up-its-sleeve is it's relative simplicity. It's far from dumb (obviously), but rather the plot is tightly bound within motive and procedure. The cast is kept to an efficient minimum, the motivation for the murder is clear (only to become oh-so-muddied in due course as events begin to unfold with expert drip-drip-drip storytelling), and the style never crushes the substance. No wonder it's held in such high regard - a status I'm all-too-happy to further champion.