The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (18)

Part one of Stieg Larsson’s famous Millennium trilogy has been vividly brought to life with all of the hard-hitting, emotional but ultimately rewarding attributes that characterise the novels. It is a faithful portrayal of Larsson’s famous novel, features a strong cast and boasts a tense and mostly gripping plot. It is an interesting combination of the slick Hollywood crime drama mixed with edgy Scandinavian film influences. It retains much of the explicit, sadistic sexual violence and the spiralling emotional turmoil suffered by the title character and new feminist icon Lisbeth Salander. Despite this it remains a largely life affirming story however has a tendency to veer into Hollywood territory.

It follows the story of Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a left-wing journalist who is framed for reporting false information on one of the country’s most corrupt businessmen. As a result he is to be given a short prison sentence in six months. Soon after the verdict he is approached by Mr Vanger, a notorious businessman in Sweden, to investigate his niece’s disappearance over 40 years ago. An impossible task for some but Blomkvist works his way through the case with the invaluable help of Lisbeth (Noomie Rapace). They soon delve into the seedy and twisted dealings of the Vanger family business and discover an underbelly of deceit, Nazism, lies and murder. The plot is both interesting and exciting from the start and I was absolutely glued to the seat for much of this film. It has really breathed a bit of life back into the largely exhausted murder mystery genre.

Both Rapace and Nygvist are convincing and charismatic in their roles as the investigative duo. Nygvist provides the suave and effortless intelligence of Blomkvist while Rapace delves into the tortured psyche of Lisbeth. Lisbeth’s story in particular is gut-wrenching in places as we discover the level of sexual and physical abuse she receives from men; mainly her demented legal guardian. I warn you now, the scenes are pretty graphic. Her anti-male perspective changes when she meets Blomkvist, her strength grows as a result and she tries to confront her troubled past. Overall the development of both characters is intriguing and very well constructed, significantly more so than your average crime thriller. This is a crime film with real substance and depth, so if you’re looking for a meaty murder mystery look no further.

There are a couple of flaws with the film however. These are mostly hereditary due to its faithful interpretation of the novel but director Neils Arden Oplev doesn’t exactly help the matter. Its ending is drawn out a bit too long and becomes rather patchy in places. Clearly Oplev was indicating the inevitable sequel but the ending seemed rushed and jumbled together. This is the point where it slips into schmaltzy Hollywood mode and the tone of the film changes abruptly. The audience is left deflated after such a large build up and unfortunately they just rush the ending. It actually reminds me, sadly, of the ending from the original cut of Blade Runner. I was also not majorly impressed by the direction. It was competent but the film could have been presented far better and the camera could have complimented the exciting events in the film, rather than simply showing them.

Ultimately those flaws are not quite enough to completely hinder what is a very tense and gripping tale of Nazi’s, gruesome murders and inner toil. I was pleasantly surprised with this film and enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I was going to. If in-depth crime thrillers are your thing you will love this film and even if you simply want a decent story to follow then give it a go! A few niggles aside this is a quality effort and is deserving of a sequel, you will not be disappointed.

Dave

4 out of 5

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