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August 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, and Peter Haber

director: Neils Arden Oplev

147 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
review by Gary McMahon

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you'll know the story-behind-the-story of the late Swedish author Stieg Larrson's Millennium trilogy. And if you don't, look it up online: it's a fascinating set of circumstances.

The film adaptation of the first book (originally titled Men Who Hate Women) in the series is hands-down one of the best thrillers I've seen in recent years. Now, I say this without having read the book - although I plan to do so - so I can't say how faithful the screenplay is to the source material. I've heard it follows the book pretty closely, though.

Michael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is a middle-aged reporter and magazine owner faced with an unfair prison sentence after a criminal libel case. Before his jail term begins he's hired by an industrialist to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance of a young girl from a large, rich family. He teams up with a sexy young goth computer hacker and researcher named Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), ironically the girl who helped investigate his own situation for a private detective agency (and who is convinced of his innocence) to attempt to solve the case, and all manner of unpleasant secrets are revealed.

That's all I'll say about the - rather old school - mystery, because what really works about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (aka: M�n som hatar kvinnor) isn't even related to the plot. The strong points here are the acting, the chemistry between the two lead players, and the personal stories of Blomkvist and Lisbeth. The mystery actually becomes redundant - like one of Hitchcock's macguffins - and instead you are carried away with the circumstances surrounding these two characters and the initially tentative bond that develops between them as the film plays out.

There's a fair amount of sex and violence on display - and one particularly intense scene involving some poetic justice by way of a dildo. I was squirming as I watched this scene, but also felt that the culprit truly deserved his punishment. There's a sense of almost biblical vengeance about elements of this film that add to its power; a sense of the epic but told through an intimate family mystery.

Noomi Rapace is brilliant as the eponymous girl, and is ably backed up by the calm, thoughtful presence of Nyqvist. Whenever they are together onscreen, what could have been a hackneyed relationship takes on life and becomes utterly believable. As a viewer, I was dragged along by the dynamic of their relationship and actually kept forgetting about the main storyline of the film.

Indeed, if I had to pick a fault with this film, it would be that the story isn't strong enough to compete with the wonderful characters inhabiting it. But that's a small beef. The film is superb, from start to finish and on every level (the low-key direction is a treat; no Hollywood bombast here), and as soon as it was over I found myself genuinely excited about the prospect of the next in the series.



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