Friday, July 2, 2010

A Movie Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2010)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010)
aka "Män som hatar kvinnor" (Men Who Hate Women)- Sweden (original title)

Director - Niels Arden Oplev
152 min Sweden: 180 min (extended version); R (USA)

Michael Nyqvist – Michael Blomkvist
Noomi Rapace – Lisbeth Salander
Sven-Bertil Taube – Henrik Vanger

In the bitter cold of a Swedish winter the desire of one man to solve a 40 year old mystery burns with passion. Now an old man, Henrik Vanger still yearns to know what became of Harriet, the girl he thought of as his own daughter, so many years ago when she disappeared and was presumed murdered. His extensive family all eager to get their hands on the family business and fortune had been gathered at the family compound on an island, cut off from the mainland for 24 hours due to an accident on the only bridge to the mainland, and for 40 years it has been suspected that one of them must have been the killer. Vanger wants answers and is willing to try one more avenue to obtain them.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first of a series of 3 novels by Stieg Larsson adapted into Swedish films. The film is subtitled and shortened by some 20+ minutes for US release (though still long by most standards at 152 minutes), and though I did not do any research on this point, I suspect some of the cutting room floor footage would have pushed the rating from R to the box-office dreaded NC-17. The film offers no apologies in its portrayal of some brutal scenes of rape and torture but I never once felt that any scene did not belong and it basically was all pooled into 3 scenes. I look forward to finding a director’s cut soon to watch the fully unedited version of this film. The original working title in Swedish was Men Who Hate Women – so keep that in mind when deciding if this film is for you.

The girl with the dragon tattoo is Lisbeth, a hard-edged, chain-smoking, young punk woman with piercings and tattoos and a giant chip on her shoulder who also happens to be a world class computer hacker, played with miraculous vigor by Noomi Rapace, in a role that is simply perfect for her on screen manor. It has been rumored that David Fincher will direct an American version of this film with Lisbeth potentially being portrayed by Carey Mulligan who is a fine actress but I am not sure who I would choose to pull off such a subversive and demanding role – I do not know enough of Mulligan to know if she can find her dark side. Daniel Craig is reportedly on board to play the central figure of this film and I think he is an almost too perfect choice. In this version of the film, however, it is Michael Nyqvist who plays the role of Michael Blomkvist, publisher/reporter of the Millenium newspaper, who is caught up in a scandal for which he claims he has been set up. A series of events brings him to Henrik Vanger who asks him to use his skills to take a look over 40 years worth of information about the disappearance of Harriet.

What really ties this story together so well is a complete inter-weaving of story, acting, directing and production, something that seemingly never comes together when you really feel it should. Both Rapace and Nyqvist nail their characters at every turn while never leaving us wondering too much about who they are and what their motivations may be – those are questions to be answered, perhaps, in the other two films. But here we are left with the story of a classic movie theme – a real who-dunnit and why thriller with all the twists and turns of any mainstream film, but with a darker portrayal of the rough edges that sometimes make a film feel too formulaic.

***** out of 5

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