Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Based on a hugely popular series of novels from late Swedish author Stieg Larssons we have the Swedish adaptation of this first of the series with ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ which was a movie that was so wildly entertaining that it was easy to overlook some of the issues that I had with this film.

Michael Nyqvist is super liberal bulldog reporter Mikael Blomkvist who has just been convicted of slander against some big time corporate honcho and is slated to do six months in prison due to his faulty reporting. Unknown to Mikael is that while he was going through this difficult trial he was also being investigated by the rather bizarre investigator and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) who is working for aging industrialist Henrik Vanger (Sven Bertil-Taube) who needs to know that Mikael is the right man for this critically important job he has for him.

What had happened was back in ’66 at the age of sixteen, Henrik’s beloved niece Harriet disappeared and Henrik is fairly convinced that one of his screwed up family members is responsible for her murder. Complicating matters is that each year on his birthday he receives a gift which matches the gifts that Harriet used to give him when she was alive which has Henrik convinced these gifts are from the murderer and is their way of f’n with him. Indeed, that’s an asshole move right there. Even though this case is as cold as a case can be, Henrik has made Mikael ‘an offer he can’t refuse’ and has given him the time before he has to report to prison to do what he can to find out the truth. He doesn’t have to solve the case, just try. Also as it turns out the kind and gentle Harriet used to sit for a young Mikael way back in the day which gives him added emphasis in discovering the truth.

Soon the overwrought weirdness that is Lisbeth will join Mikael on this case, considering she’s come to know Mikael as honest and true during her investigation of him. In the life of Lisbeth Salander the words Male, Honest and True have yet to line up in any reasonable way so we can understand, at least somewhat why this twenty four your old woman would be drawn to this man who is easily old enough to be her father.

The investigation is underway and between Mikael’s investigative skills and Lisbeth’s technical acumen they gradually are peeling away layers to something that is pretty large with a plethora of suspects to choose from. By the time someone starts shooting at Mikael he knows he’s onto something, he’s just not quite sure what that something is, even though he will learn it involves, among other distasteful items, rape, Nazi’s, ritualistic murders and serial killers. In the history of bad combinations that’s gotta be near the top of the list. And he’s started to have sex with Lisbeth. One of our personal rules here is never have sex with crazy people, no matter how nice they might look in a pair of jeans. Just don’t do it. Regardless, thrills will ensue.

This has little to do with the value of this movie or the story that it tells, but I’ve seen about a dozen Swedish films and almost to a tee every one of these films has cinematography to die for. Even though this a broad generalization but between the Swedes and the South Koreans I don’t know who paints a prettier pictures with light and celluloid, or hard drives as the case may be, when it comes to these two nations and their cinematic exploits.

But back to the movie itself. ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ almost draws you into its story immediately, especially if you happen to be a fan of these whodunit style thrillers which is exactly what director Niels Arden Oplev has crafted here. We are introduced to our main characters and we learn what they are like so we can get a feel for them, at least for the most part since Lisbeth is left with some mystery, and the details of our investigation are spoon fed to us throughout the proceedings. Mind you this isn’t a whodunit in the sense that you are supposed to guess who our culprit is, at least I don’t think so considering how the information is disseminated towards us considering our suspects aren’t given that much screen time, instead we are simply casual observers watching how these characters act and how they relate to one another as they strive to achieve their goal, and at least for me this approach worked wonderfully.

Now since this is a film based on a novel that I personally haven’t read, also considering the girth of this novel it is difficult to point out problems because chances are that it was in the book but still. The original title is ‘Men who Hate Women’ and sure enough there are a lot men hating women in this movie, but there is a scene of rape / revenge wedged in the narrative, which while powerful, I’m not quite sure what purpose it served other than to shock . At the point in the film where this takes place we already a have a pretty good grip on this particular character, the kind of person she is and what she is capable of. If that whole sub story had been excised from the movie I don’t think anything would’ve been lost. This next thing is a SPOILER but exactly how liberal can one person be? A dude is serial killer, has been raping and murdering for over four plus decades and is mere seconds away from murdering you yet you still feel empathy for this character and his fate. Seriously? I mean there’s liberal and there’s the character of Mikael Blomqvist which is something else altogether. Then there was the final scene of the film which felt tacked on and out of place.

But outside of those somewhat minor issues I personally felt that ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ was one fine film. It had great performances from Rapace and Nyqvist, the cinematography was second to none and it had an engaging story to tell and told this story expert precision.

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