The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Music Box Films, R)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the film that every person with a passion for cinema should see this year.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the film that every person with a passion for cinema should see this year. The film has already become a cultural phenomenon in Sweden and is certain to have the same impact in America as well.

Based on the first book in the Millennium Trilogy by author Stieg Larson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been a bestseller in this country since its release. Adapted for the screen by Rasmus Heisterberg and Nikolaj Arcel and directed by Niels Arden Oplev, the story of murder, violence, revenge and lies has been stripped to its bare bones but is just as thrilling as reading the book. Oplev has crafted a film that is as daring as it is dark; many of the events that take place will no doubt make some audience members cringe, which is why the original Swedish title of the first book is Men Who Hate Women. We are seeing a very ugly side of human nature.

To give more than a superficial description of the plot would be to ruin the experience for any viewer. The film begins with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nvqvis) who has just been sentenced to prison after being found guilty of libel against the CEO of a large corporation. Blomkvist is contacted by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), the eldest member of the rich and powerful Vanger family, to investigate the disappearance of his niece…forty years ago. Henrik is convinced that a member of his own family is responsible for her death.

At the same time, we are introduced to Lizbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), an expert computer hacker that was hired to investigate Blomkvist. Salander is thin, pierced and looks like the last person you’d want to piss off. She becomes fascinated with Blomkvist and while we don’t get her full back story, we know that she has had a very troubled past.

Oplev dives right into the story and holds the audience’s attention by addressing only the most crucial information and events in the story. Blomkvist and Salander seem to start on two opposite sides of the story, but quickly come together as they look more deeply into the Vanger family. Though the violence is critical to the story, Oplev does not dwell on it because there is just too much that happens throughout the film. The most ingenious tool that Oplev employs is by starting all the events before the movie even begins. We don’t even see the MacGuffin(s) that catapult the story into action; we are thrown into the story and must catch up quickly to follow what is happening.

While the acting performances are top notch by all players, this is Rapace’s film, pure and simple. She has already won the Best Actress prize at Sweden’s Academy Awards equivalent and has managed to live up to the very lofty expectations of fans of the book. Rapace completely transforms into Salander and perfects a cold, dead stare that shows a complete lack of emotion and is absolutely chilling. We are convinced by her performance whether Salander is explaining intricate computer hacking terminology or kicking the ass of some punks in a subway. Without Rapace, the film would have felt as two-dimensional as words on a page.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a fantastic achievement in cinema that will leave audience members begging for the final two installments. Luckily, we will only have to wait until later this year to get them. | Matthew F. Newlin

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