Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The (2010)
Release Date: March 19th, 2010 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Niels Arden Oplev Actors: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber, Peter Andersson, Marika Lagercrantz, Annika Hallin
or his controversial articles in the Millennium magazine, Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is convicted of libel against powerful business tycoon Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Before Mikael must serve an imprisonment verdict, the secluded, elderly Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) of the money-hungry, back-stabbing Vanger Group hires Blomkvist to find out what happened to his brother’s daughter, 16-year-old Harriet (Ewa Froling), who he believes was murdered in 1965 by someone in the family. Mikael quits his job and moves into the guesthouse at Vanger’s massive estate, in the freezing cold of Hedestad, to begin work on solving the 40-year-old mystery. But he only has a mere six months on the property before he must serve his time for the conviction. It won’t be easy, especially as it’s revealed that several of Henrik’s brothers and relatives were Nazis, many still grudgingly living in houses neighboring the main property, and that few are on speaking terms with one another.
As Blomkvist slowly discovers new inklings about the case, the ferocious music clues the audience in on certain revelations that could prove shocking. Meanwhile, odd but expert researcher and hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), who works for Milton Security and was hired to dig up dirt on the disgraced Millennium writer by Vanger’s lawyer, Dirch Frode (Ingvar Hirdwall), continues to spy on Blomkvist (having uncovered nothing except what she suspects to be a setup by Wennerstrom). Through his computer, she’s able to track his progress in the case, including seeing his write-ups, reports, and notes. She’s sidetracked by an abusive parole officer who trades liberties for sexual submissiveness, digressing to a graphic, marginally exploitive subplot that reveals her strengths, snippets of her past, and a penchant for justifiable violence and revenge. It’s ugly but cinematically bold. When Mikael discovers his computer has been hacked, Frode gives him Salander, who earnestly aids in his research and provides groundbreaking leads.
Lisbeth is a remarkably unique character that single-handedly propels the film beyond the scope of an average mystery thriller. She’s an instant anti-heroine with a striking physical appearance (dark gothic clothing and accompanying hardware – such as a spiked choker – black makeup, ebony hair, and numerous facial piercings) and a troubled past, and a target for abuse. She’s bisexual, rides a motorcycle, has a photographic memory, bears a detailed dragon tattoo that stretches from the base of her neck down to her legs, smokes, and suffers from numerous mental disturbances (exhibiting some peculiar sexual tendencies). Rapace’s performance is daring and exceptional and the character is written with singular details that drastically separate her from typical Watson-like assistants or accidental-muse love interests. By no means is she a generic accomplice.
Like many sharp dramas, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” uses a few surefire storytelling techniques to intensify the content. As the investigators hunt for clues, so too does the audience, partly searching for answers to Lisbeth’s behavior, and primarily to get to the bottom of the murders. As Blomkvist and Salander maneuver closer to the truth, they’re targeted for ruin and continually prompted to give up and leave – which means they must be on the right track.
Also included are a few scenes of snooping in the dark, characters having internal breakthroughs before revealing evidence to the audience, cameras sneaking up over shoulders, photographic hints, and murder aftermath pictures. Flashbacks also reveal information, some of which is purposely misleading. The overall atmosphere, subject matter, and climax are appropriately gritty, painting a bleak portrait of human grotesquerie and morbid proclivities. But answers are still quite welcome, wrapping up a smartly complex mystery that is tightly paced and entertaining, even if it doesn’t offer up never-before-seen twists or completely original ideas that can overcome the outright splendor of Salander’s extraordinary persona.
– Mike Massie