When a wildly popular novel is adapted for the big screen, there are a few questions guaranteed to come up. For fans of the novel, they first want to know if the movie stays true to the story. Secondly, they are eager to know if the characters are as they imagined while reading the book. Unfortunately, I have not read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, so I cannot answer those questions.
The basis of the film is that 40 years ago, Henrik Vanger's (Sven-Bertil Taube) niece, Harriet, went missing. Henrik believes she was murdered, and by someone in their unpleasant-yet-tight-for-business-purposes family. Investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) comes onto the case per Henrik's request before he fulfills a three-month jail sentence after losing a libel case. Throughout his trial and investigation, Mikael had been tracked by a computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander.
Before appearing on screen, we already know that Lisbeth is a bit odd. She has short, jet-black hair and her back is completely covered with - you guessed it - a dragon tattoo. Lisbeth has gone through some tough times in her life, including incidences with her new guardian who beats and rapes her.
Technology guides the 40-year-old case, but it is not the key to solving the puzzle. Mikael is able to look at the last photo ever taken of Harriet and by following her gaze makes a crack in the case, using photo-editing software. Lisbeth breaks codes that stopped other investigators cold. Though she is a techno whiz, it's her knowledge and attention to detail, which helps her put the pieces together.
Lisbeth's interactions with her guardian are by far the hardest to watch, due to their extreme and violent nature. It's a wonder in stories like these why the victim doesn't go to the police, but watching Lisbeth take her revenge is more satisfying.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo grips your attention, least of all because of the subtitles - the film takes place and was produced in Sweden. The mysterious case always has the audience guessing, leading us one way and then turning a complete 180. Our two detectives are most definitely an odd couple, but their differences blend together, playing off of each other's strengths to create a precise crime-solving duo.
Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth and she is a complete badass. This is the first time I've seen Rapace in a film. Although she has an extensive filmography in Sweden, she's exactly what we need in America. The best comparison would be to Angelina Jolie circa Gia and Girl, Interrupted. Based on her role in Dragon, I imagine we'll be seeing a lot more of Rapace - at least in the next two Swedish adaptations of Larsson's Millennium series.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo continually had me guessing, which made me glad I haven't read the book yet. The cinematography wasn't anything special, but the acting and the darkly crafted whodunit storyline were superb. For a two-and-a-half hour film it kept pace well, not dragging where others would. Lisbeth Salander may or may not be what you imagined she would be, based on her literary depiction, but she's a force to be reckoned with.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Staring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev.