Sunday, September 26, 2010

Short Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev, 2010)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an intelligent, complex, engaging and stylish investigative mystery is strengthened by a pair of well-developed central characters. Conforming well to the whodunit genre with refreshing elements of the classic cosy school murder story, the pair unlock a disturbing past to the powerful Vanger family with ties to the Nazi regime and a series of grizzly murders of young women. Recently disgraced in the media, prominent investigative journalist for Millennium Magazine, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is approached by the uncle of Harriet Vanger, a young girl who had disappeared 40 years prior, to re-pursue an investigation into her disappearance and likely murder. With six months until his sentence, Blomqvist moves to the Vanger estate and begins to recount Harriet's past, using police reports and photographs to piece together evidence. At the same time, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), an elite computer hacker, is transfixed by the accusations against Blomqvist's, believing him to be set up. With access to his documents, she assists him with the case secretly by linking a diary entry to a series of bible verses, before he discovers her skills, and brings her in to assist. The pair form a reluctant romance, and find themselves in danger as they get closer to discovering which member of the family was involved in Harriet's disappearance. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is more than a whodunit, it is also a dark exploration into the mind of a troubled young woman, who had dealt with years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father. At 24 she is has become a brilliant digital technician and thinker but a mentally tormented and violent misandrist. Requiring parole guardianship, she is assigned to a different guardian when her previous one passed away, who immediately claims control of all her funds and refuses to allow her access unless she grants him violent sexual favors. She sure teaches him who he is messing with.
The plot is quite involved and takes some time to really take shape, but there are some quite stunning twists and some skillful detection on display. Blomqvist is a likable guy you really urge to find the truth and Lisbeth is immediately memorable. Both leads give excellent performances. I didn't find it to be particularly outstanding in any way though, and I thought the final act, apart from tying up every single loose end, was unnecessarily long. The dual individual stories during the first hour were also oddly edited and assembled, almost void of connection. The direction, while successfully conforming to a popular genre, lacked some imagination. It is also puzzling to hear that there is an American re-make in production. With the exception of the Swedish spoken language, the landscape and the icy atmosphere of the estate, it felt somewhat like a Hollywood film. Overall, the first film adaptation of the hugely popular Stieg Larsson 'Millennium' trilogy was an exciting and watchable thriller, and I'm certainly intrigued by what lies in store for the characters in the soon-to-be-released sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire.

My Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

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