Critically lauded over the past year, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a thrilling mystery tale that touches base on themes of darkness and despair, but at the same time manages to create characters intriguing enough to keep you glued to what’s happening, even if you don’t always want to look. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, this Swedish murder mystery tries to be more complex than it really is, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that the movie is any less interesting.
Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is one of the country’s most popular reporters, who has recently been charged with libel and sentenced to six months in prison. Before he is set to serve his sentence, he is hired by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), head of the powerful Vanger Group, to solve the 40 year-old mystery of his niece’s disappearance. There hasn’t been any leads since then, although he does receive a framed plant each year on her birthday, each one being from a different corner of the globe than the last.
It isn’t until Mikael gets help from hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) that the movie kick into the next gear. We meet her at the beginning of the movie as she has her own conflicts to deal with, which includes gathering information on Blomkvist for Vanger. Despite having a troubled past, Salander is a very talented hacker/investigator who is able to find just about any information on any person she wishes, which proves to be very helpful for Blomkvist. Their journey is a thrilling one, with new obstacles popping up that prevent them from solving their mystery. Although the tension throughout the movie stays intense enough to keep you in the story, you can’t help but feel that the ending is rather anti-climatic. The film tends to give away too much information at the beginning an its attempt for improved narrative, and it definitely takes away from how effective the third act should be. I also felt that they could have went deeper into Mikael’s personal life: Salander knows everything about Blomkvist, and we have a pretty good understanding of her past, but we are somewhat left in the dark with Blomkvist.
Most people will come away from this movie talking about the performance of Noomi Rapace. She displays a wonderful variety of emotions and reactions that keep her character alive, to the point that you are almost surprised by each thing she does. Just when you think you have her figured out, she proves you wrong. In lesser hands, I could have easily seen this role becoming a dull and lifeless performance like Bella from Twilight. Michael Nyqvist is good enough for what the movie asks for him, although the character doesn’t seem to struggle with anything internally. The rest of the performances are simply okay. They pop up every now and then, but the focus of the movie stays on the two main characters.
An interesting note is how much this movie reminded me of a couple different movies. The Ghost Writer was a movie of both a similar story and tone, although the tone of Dragon Tattoo was much darker. Ghost Writer was one of my favorite movies of the early part of the year, but I definitely wouldn’t have such a warm reaction had I watched Dragon Tattoo first. Another movie that I thought it compared well to, but as more of a companion piece, would be The White Ribbon. You probably wouldn’t realize it while watching the movie, but after it ended, I couldn’t help how well the two fit together, even though they are completely different movies.
Although it has it’s fair share of plot mishaps, this is still one of the better crime thrillers that you will find nowadays. A wonderful female lead performance paves the way through this dark and sometimes relentless murder mystery which will keep you hooked and wanting for more. Luckily, this is indeed the beginning of a trilogy. And with other recent movies like Let the Right One In, there could possibly be a film movement going on in Sweden, much like that of Romania several years ago.
Notes: Rated R for disturbing violent content including rape, grisly images, sexual material, nudity and language. 152 minutes. Sent from my BlackBerry Smartphone provided by Alltel.