Film review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Posted on: 11 March 2010 by Mark O'haire

A world of buried secrets, corporate corruption, family tragedy and simmering sexual tension is strongly evoked by Niels Arden Oplev in this taut Swedish thriller.

Showing cinemas around the UK from 12 March, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is based on the first instalment of Steig Larsson’s best selling Millennium Trilogy.

Investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist is flying high at Millennium magazine until a story about industrial magnate Hans-Erik Wennerstrom, in which he had accused the elderly industrialist of fraud and gun-running, lands him in court on a libel charge.

Facing conviction, Blomkvist accepts an offer from Wennerstrom’s rival Henrik Vanger to leave Stockholm and travel to the island of Hederstad. It was here 30 years previously that Vagner’s young niece, Harriet, went missing. In return for the reporter’s help in solving the mystery, the ageing Vanger will provide Blomkvist with all the information he needs to prove that Wennerstrom is involved in criminal activity.

Enter Lisabeth Salander, a troubled but tough young hacker, whose own life is riddled with corrupt figures and a murky past. Escaping her own demons, she is drawn to Blomkvist’s case. As the pair dig deeper into the Vangers’ complex history, they begin to connect a series of grotesque murders and unravel the appalling darkness that lurks in the Vanger family history. The case draws them inexorably together, but places them in the greatest danger they have ever known.

Larsson himself was one of the most successful authors in the world but also one with a mysterious past. He died from myocardial infarction in 2004, mere months after he handed the Millennium manuscript to his publisher. One of Sweden’s most timeless anti-fascist activists - and without giving too much away, racism plays a key role in the story - he lectured on the subject of racism in Sweden, maintaining a high profile that reportedly led to numerous death threats from political opponents who had been excoriated in print. The tragic suddenness of his death led many to suspect foul play, but rumours that the death was suspicious have been denied.

With the Hollywood slickness of fast-paced action thrillers, director Niels Arden has crafted an atmospheric detective story with a distinctive Nordic core.

Initially the plot and characterisation seem somewhat confusing but gradually the different strands are knitted together satisfactorily and the film becomes absorbing and suspenseful, though I feel that at 2.5 hours the film would have benefited from some tighter editing.

What makes the film particularly distinctive are two excellent central performances from Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace as Blomkvist and Salander respectively as the unconventional detective duo.

It is rumoured that Hollywood is planning a remake which only goes to show you just how much this intelligent, realistic thriller impressed those hard as nails studio executives.

By Laurence Greer


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