The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Startlingly dark, greatly enjoyable thriller.

Released in 2009, certified UK-18. Reviewed on 11 Jan 2012 by Scott Morris
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo image

Some would call this film "Man som hatar kvinnor". Chiefly the Swedish, I'd imagine. Stieg Larsson's novel gets an adaptation for the screen, and I guess it must be good, seeing as it's been immediately picked up for an English language remake. Well, that badge of honour has become rather tarnished of late, but The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo turns out to be a pretty decent thriller.

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) finds himself on the wrong end of the judge's gavel in a libel case, sentenced to a few months in the slammer at a time apparently of his choosing. Odd. At any rate, he walks out of court and decides to distance himself from his magazine by resigning, to avoid bringing it into further disrepute. He has little chance to rest before he's contacted by the aging ex-CEO of the Vanger Concern, Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube).

He wants Mikael to play detective for him. Some forty years ago, his young niece Harriet vanished without a trace. The police made no headway, although Henrik suspects foul play on the part of one of his family. In the absence of anything else to do, Mikael takes up the cold case.

Unbeknownst to Mikael, a young computer hacker / private investigator Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has been employed to keep tabs on him, but soon winds up joining him in the search to uncover what happened to Harriet. Calling Lisbeth 'troubled' would really be doing her a disservice. How she got into her current dark, alienated state will be a recurring sub-plot that echoes the dark secrets that Mikael unearths about the Vanger family.

As murder-mysteries go, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a pretty effective one. The cinematography is, on occasion, absolutely breathtaking. The characters are interesting, well-acted and fleshed out with enough surrounding detail to avoid feeling like mere conduits for plot to run through. It keeps up a decent pace, and there's never a dull moment.

It's not perfect, and I think it may well be because there's never a dull moment. I don't think I'm being too controversial in saying that both the investigative techniques and events occurring to the investigators skate on the other side of the borders of believability. Not impossible, true, and there's enough unpleasant people in the world doing unpleasant things to other people that nothing presented here is impossible. It's pretty damn unlikely, though.

The genius of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is that it doesn't stop for long enough to have you really think about it in any deep way. It's also not a film that demands any deep inspection for anyone that's not reviewing it for a website, so perhaps it's biggest foible won't be picked up on by most in the audience. Which is a good thing, I suppose, for everyone except me.

I enjoyed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo whole-heartedly. There's no point saying much more than that, and there's also no point waiting for the Hollywood remake to go and see it.

Niels Arden Oplev
Cast list:
Michael Nyqvist (Mikael Blomkvist)
Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander)