THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO ****

Perhaps it is because I’m not a thick-book Bestseller reader, and tend not to see the films based upon them, that I found The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo so refreshing. This is a movie that is much more plot-driven than the films I tend to seek out, and, rather than finding myself frustrated for lack of humour or interesting character-based moments, I instead was swept up in the relentless ride, and found myself captivated through every minute of this two-and-a-half hour movie.

Of course, gazillions of readers of the hugely popular novel by the (unfortunately deceased) Stieg Larsson won’t be surprised by this in the least. The first part of a trilogy featuring the incredibly endearing characters of Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the novel is, I gather, a rip-snorting page turner, and the film delivers its thrills and chills in spades. Mikael is a crusading leftie journo who’s got six months until he has to go to jail for defaming a powerful businessman; Lisbeth is a highly pierced, tattooed, troubled twenty-four year old with an uncanny skill for research – or, indeed, investigation. First apart and then (in a spectacular teaming) together, these two misfit souls are set on a journey to uncover a very wealthy family’s darkest secret by solving a forty year-old murder on a remote and very snowy Swedish island.

The acting by these two leads is first rate; Nyquist is already a huge star in Sweden but the revelation is Rapace, who, if she can speak any English, is absolutely destined to become a major Hollywood star. Lisbeth is an absolutely ripping major character, full of seriously quirky eccentricities, uncovered pain and bizarre sexuality. She is beautiful, haunted, occasionally violent and eminently likable to the viewer, just as she is probably deeply unlikable to most of the characters on screen. It is the role of a lifetime, and, considering she gets to play her in three major movies, it is no surprise that Rapace got all the piercings (and there are many, all over her face) that the character demanded, for real. And that is only the surface level of her commitment to this brilliant character. She is completely real and believable, and will become the pin-up girl for Goth Grrrls everywhere for years to come.

The other characters (and there are a lot) aren’t nearly as well-rounded, but all are acted with veracity by what I assume to be a gallery of Sweden’s greatest character actors. The incredibly complicated plot is told with such precision by director Niels Arden Oplev that even I, a relative stranger to the plot-driven murder mystery, found myself on top of the whole thing the whole time. I’m sure that the hugely lionized and deeply missed Larsson would be proud of this sterling adaptation. For myself, one of the deepest pleasures of the film was knowing that there were two more to come.

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