Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2009)

Starring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace and Sven-Bertil Taube
Written by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev

Based on the novel by late author Stieg Larrson, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (also known as "Men Who Hate Women") is a twisty, sick mystery thriller.  At two and a half hours, it can run a little long; this might be an artifact of attempting to retain as much of the original novel's material as possible, but I haven't read it, so I can't comment on that - or on how faithful this adaptation is, in general.

All I can say is that it is a good movie, even if it goes on a bit too long.  It's not for the faint of heart, either; the film covers a number of dark topics like Nazis, racism, rape and incest.  The story concerns Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a famous investigative reporter who has just been sentenced to jail for libel after accusing a wealthy businessman of being involved in the drug and guns trade.  Before his jail sentence is carried out, Blomkvist is hired by another wealthy businessman, Henrik Vanger, to investigate the 40-year-old murder of his niece, Harriet.  It seems that every year on his birthday, Henrik receives a preserved flower, the same kind of gift he used to receive from Harriet before her disappearance.  Henrik believes Harriet has been murdered, and that her killer has been taunting him all these years.

Blomkvist begins to look into Harriet's disappearance/murder, going through forty-year-old police files and attempting to piece together a picture of how and why a teen girl belonging to a powerful family would just disappear like that.  What Blomkvist doesn't know is that he is under surveillance by Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a hacker working for a security company.  When Blomkvist hits a wall in his investigation, Salander manages to crack the clue that's holding him up, and reveals herself to him.  The two then team up to take on the rest of the mystery together, and soon uncover a decades-long murder spree that will shed light on all the dark corners of the powerful Vanger family empire.

As a mystery, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" functions quite well, with the viewer never discovering something long before the characters.  The script is quite adept at slowly uncovering the next piece of the puzzle, allowing the audience to put it all together along with the characters.  Constructing a good mystery is a difficult thing to do; if the audience figures it out too much earlier than the characters in the story, tension and intrigue are lost, and you're left with a bored audience.  "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" doesn't suffer from this problem; it's mystery is both intriguing and well-constructed. 

The characters are well-drawn, as well.  We have a good sense of who Blomkvist is, and his talents as a reporter.  Lisbeth is a bit of a different story, as her subplot involving her state-appointed guardian is bizarre, and a bit sick.  Lisbeth is someone who's led a hard life, and the reasons for this are revealed slowly throughout the film.  As such, she's a bit harder to get a grasp of, and sometimes I wondered exactly why she does some of the things she does.  Ultimately, though, both Blomkvist and Lisbeth are likable, and the two work well together so that we can root for them as a team.

There's a big-budget American remake of this one coming up with Daniel Craig in the lead role.  I have to admit that after seeing this one, I'm not sure if I really want to check out an Americanized remake (those don't often come out quite as well), but Daniel Craig has me sold.  I think he's an excellent choice for the role of Blomkvist, and it's easy to see why they chose him after watching this film. 

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" can be a bit hard to watch at times, but its mystery is enthralling.  This is a well-made, entertaining whodunit.  Let's hope the sequels keep it up.