REVIEW: DVD Release: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Film: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Release date: 19th July 2010
Certificate: 18
Running time: 147 mins
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Peter Haber, Sven-Bertil Taube
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Crime
Studio: Momentum
Format: DVD & Blu-ray
Country: Sweden/Denmark/Germany/Norway

Faithfully adapted from the first in the trilogy of Millennium novels (originally entitled Men Who Hate Women) by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, this thought provoking film continues a resurgence of Swedish cinema kick started in 2008 by the excellent atmospheric coming of age vampire love story Let The Right One In.

Henrik Vanger loves his niece Harriet; loves her innocence, her intelligence, her lust for life, and the fact that she loves him for him and - not his money or power. Annually, she presents her favourite uncle with a framed picture containing a different pressed flower, which he in turn proudly displays on his office wall.

Four decades after Harriet disappears from his life during a Vanger family gathering, he is still receiving an anniversary framed pressed flower reminder of his niece from an unknown source.

Disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), facing a prison sentence for libelling a powerful business magnate, is summoned to the home of the wealthy industrialist, and offered the opportunity investigate the mystery. Vanger accepts that a member of his own dysfunctional family may be responsible for the crime, a clan of privileged Swedish aristocrats that are willing to go to almost any length to protect the skeletons in their sizeable closets.

Blomkvist is a loner forced to accept assistance by his employer in the shape of Milton security investigator Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), and it is with the introduction of this bi-sexual, androgynous, computer-hacking petit leather wearing Goth that this thriller becomes something special. Not since the Knight (Antonius Block) in Ingrid Bergman’s 1957 classic The Seventh Seal has Swedish cinema produced such an iconic character...

Salander is a compelling mid-twenties girl, with a mysterious past even more compelling than the enigmatic disappearance of Harriet Vagner. She is the opposite in every way to the subdued introverted Blomkvist. Even when we discover his long standing affair with a journalistic colleague, an affair blessed by her husband, he never rises above the level of moralistic everyman. It takes nearly an hour, a welcomed character developing slow burn, for theses two main players to come together and form a strange and productive relationship.

Nazi sympathisers, biblical references, suggested sexual abuse, and evidence pointing towards a possible serial killer, or even killers, emerge at such skilfully spaced intervals that these revelations intensify an already building suspense created by Salander’s ominous back story.

It is her past, and trying to comprehend the reasons behind her aggressive black-and-white view of life that is the movie’s true mystery. She deems Blomkvist as good, and therefore willingly helps in his investigation, while those fool hardy souls that cross swords with the Goth soon suffer at her hands. A particularly graphic revenge rape against her court appointed guardian and sexual predator Bjurman is disturbingly violent, and yet it is conversely satisfying to watch justice being done - albeit through fingers from eye covering hands. She is a tiny whirlwind of repressed rage, a dark edged heroine and worthy adversary to the strongest foe, yet more than this she is a victim, a survivor, and a character with an emotional underbelly that director Niels Arden Oplev cleverly only hints at. Indeed, this is a character that we could watch time and time again, and with two made-for-TV movies having already been screened in Sweden, and rumours of a fourth story in the possession of the late Stieg Larsson’s family, it appears we just might have that opportunity.

The cinematography utilises every inch of the provocative Swedish landscape, while the script never flinches when dealing with the movie’s many controversial issues. One very small fault is a flashback to Salander’s childhood that is never properly explained, perhaps included as a subliminal teaser to the second made for television movie, or even as a guilty little pleasure for loyal readers of the books.

With only a few minor changes to the story, literature fans should be delighted by the adaption, especially as the casting agent has utilised the Swedish acting fraternity to good measure. Noomi Rapace, in particular, is outstanding - seemingly born for the role - and it is not unfair to say that the film stands and falls by her performance.

Hollywood already has plans to remake the trilogy, if they follow the novel and successfully cast Salander then maybe, just maybe they can replicate this truly excellent movie. Wishful thinking perhaps after Hollywood remakes ruined the great Asian thought provoking horror movies of the ‘90s and early-noughties by abandoning atmosphere and storytelling for gore and special effects. Time will tell.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a skilfully directed, well acted atmospheric suspense fuelled thriller that will stay in the mind long after the final credits have rolled, and worthy of numerous viewings to discover the subtleties of this intriguing multi layered story. MG

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