Niels Arden Oplev's screen adaptation of the wildly successful Stieg Larsson thriller, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, is a sure crowd-pleaser. Though still coming in at two and a half hours, it is an admirably condensed and faithful adaptation of a complicated thriller. As fans will be well aware - and I'm assuming most people who see the film will have already read all three books - the movie is about two people who form an unlikely bond in order to investigate an old crime in one of Sweden's most prominent families. Years ago, a young girl disappeared from the wealthy island inhabited largely by her family - the Vangers. In old age, her grand-uncle hires disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist to re-examine the case and the rogue's gallery of former Nazis and selfish old bastards that make up the Vanger family. Blomkvist is a like-able decent guy - and in his relationship with his long time mistress and best friend Erika, as well as with his new found aide, Lisbeth Salander, he proves that he is a "man who loves women". He enjoys their company, enjoys making love to them, treats them as equals and with respect. But Lisbeth Salander - the true star of the books and this film - is a prickly character - highly intelligent, gifted with computers, a victim of extreme abuse, and as uncomfortable in her skin as Blomkvist is at peace.
I found the direction to be workmanlike in all but the elegant way in which the IT hacking was depicted. What set the movie apart was, source material notwithstanding, the genuine sympathy between, and charisma of, the two lead characters. Michael Nyqvist is superb as the laconic Blomkvist, and Noomi Rapace commits physically and psychologically so fully to being Lisbeth Salander that you can feel the ferocity. And this is important, because inevitably, in order to compress the film, the side relationships - and the smaller characters at Millenium and Milton Security - have been stripped away. As a result, the film lives and dies by whether you are emotionally affected by an abused woman opening a small sliver of her life to Blomkvist. This is much more pivotal than solving the "whodunnit". After all, if there's any real message to Larson's novel, it's that the establishment in its entirety did it.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was released in 2009 in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Finland, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Spain, Iceland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Greece, Austria, Poland and New Zealand. It opened earlier this year in Japan and Estonia. It is currently on release in the US and UK and opens next weekend in Australia. It opens on April 23rd in Brazil.
Additional tags: Jacob Groth, Jens Fischer, Eric Kress, Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Haber, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Andersson, Ingvar Hirdwall, Marika Lagercrantz, Ewa Froling, Tomas Kohler, Gosta Bredefeldt, Niels Arden Oplev.