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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or as it is originally titled Men Who
Hate Women, is one of the best contemporary thrillers I have seen in a
while. It combines a suspenseful plot and brutal violence with a deep
exploration of its title character. It goes beyond its plot, revolving
around a missing persons investigation, to become an at times
disturbing character study.
Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace are essential to the film's success. Both actors inhabit their roles convincingly, making us care about people who could have been stock characters. Although the bulk of praise has gone to Rapace, Nyqvist's performance is also worth attention. As Blomkvist, he provides a stable counterpart to Rapace's impulsive Lisabeth Salander, at times coming across as the more sympathetic character.
Much has been made of the level of graphic violence, particularly sexual violence, in this film. Although this may be off-putting to some viewers, it helps establish one of the film's most important themes: the impact of violence on its victims and its capacity to warp the human personality. The most graphic scenes, which come early in the film, help establish this theme, and play an important role in characterization as well.
Hopefully, this film will be remembered at Oscar time. It is far better than most of the dreck that Hollywood has on offer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this movie today in a pre-release screening 10 days before the
official release in Denmark.
I really liked this movie. I haven't read the book, so I can't compare the two. I'm Danish, the movie is Swedish (info: Denmark and Sweden are neighbors and share a very similar language), and I haven't really seen any Swedish movies before.
You can compare this movie to Kongekabale (2004). The themes are somewhat similar: secrets must be researched and uncovered, and someone tries to kill others in order to prevent the secret from getting out.
I think both the main characters (Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander) are likable characters. My favorite is definitely Lisbeth Salander, as her being tech-savvy is something I can relate to. You get to know Lisbeth's history, while Mikael's is not revealed too much. I think this might be something missing from the plot, though I don't think it's that serious, as it's not really crucial information that will render the rest of the plot fuzzy and confusing.
Again, there are several times in the movie where you get to know Lisbeth more. I think this is because the majority of the people watching this type of films can relate more to the journalist (Mikael), than the Gothic computer hacker Lisbeth. I actually liked this, since her part of the movie catches my fancy. That being said, I also liked the rest of the movie. Very exciting. Hard to keep your eyes off the screen at most times.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I rarely include spoilers in my reviews. The only reason I will in this one is for the benefit of Noomi Rapace and other members of the cast and crew who made this movie perfect. Hollywood does the weirdest things. Rather than give a new writer a chance, they'll remake an absolutely perfect recent film. Bizarre. I truly hope it backfires on them. Seeing the trailers for the remake, I'm baffled. It's flat. There is nothing in their eyes. Noomi Rapace is gripping in this film. She's my hero. This film contains the most brutal rape scene imaginable, and I nearly had to stop watching, but I could not stop watching *her* - there was something about *her* that promised me that this was not gratuitous sadism. I cheered my guts out when she cleverly trapped the human predator and exacted justice. I had not read the book, so I had no idea this was coming. Noomi's performance is beyond 10. I can't think of another actress who has gone this deep in drama, and I want her to know, it was a very satisfying movie to watch - not mere entertainment - it was cathartic. Thank you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I finished reading the book yesterday and immediately added the movie
to my instant que on my netflix and proceeded to watch it. Well I had
high hopes for the movie, it got so many good reviews. But I was
completely let down, in comparison to the book that is. Several plot
elements and relationships weren't in the movie at all characters too.
Mikael's character was not fleshed out at all and you didn't really
feel any motivation for why he was doing what he was doing at all. The
character of Lisbeth, I thought was well done, but I felt that the
relationship between her and Mikael felt rushed and had no emotion...
you didn't get her struggle with her feelings for Mikael. The plot time
line was mixed up and everything, and the Millennium magazine seemed to
have been tacked on to the movie, when it really does play a Major role
with Mikael and the Vanger Family but was only a foot note in the
Though if I had never read the book I think the movie would have been OK, I think the characters could have been fleshed out and I felt the conclusion was rushed quite a bit. But I consider it a good mystery/thriller, though it could have been so much better.
I've always been cautious about seeing Swedish films made in the last
30-40 years. The reason is that--unlike America, Britain, Germany,
China, Mexico, Italy or Australia--there is almost no controversy over
who is Sweden's greatest filmmaker. And thus nearly every Swedish film
I've ever seen not directed by Ingmar Bergman has either been a rip-off
of the great man's work or just shallow trash. (Substitute "Kurosawa"
for "Bergman" and you'll know why I also tend to avoid Japanese
cinema). Nonetheless, I kept hearing about this film and the book that
inspired it. As a lover of mystery novels and film noir, I decided that
I need to at least give this movie a chance. And I'm glad I did. "The
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" owes almost nothing to Bergman and
everything to the novels of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ross
It begins when a sickly, elderly billionaire industrialist who knows better than to trust his awful family wants to investigate the 42-year-old disappearance of his niece--the only relative he ever loved (think "The Big Sleep"). Through intermediaries, he hires Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace)--a hacker/private investigator with a troubled past and a large dragon tattoo on her back. Her assignment is to vet disgraced leftist journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist) to see if he's up to the job. Eventually Blomqvist agrees to do the job and quickly realizes that he needs Lisbeth to help him. Revealing much more of the plot would be unfair.
Aside from the serpentine plot (involving Nazis, serial killers, and a clandestine romance), the thing I liked most about this movie was Rapace's performance as the inscrutable Lisbeth. Maybe there's a pattern here, or maybe it's just me, but--along with Kristen Stewart in "The Runaways"--my two favorite female performances of 2010 thus far have been portrayals of angry, leather-jacketed bisexual young women. Without changing facial expressions, Rapace is somehow able to show anger, fear, love, sadness and embarrassment at the appropriate times. And I feel the scene where Lisbeth is raped by her parole officer ranks just as high if not higher than the scene in "The Accused" that won Jodie Foster her first Oscar.
According to this site, there is already an American remake in the works. I don't know how that's going to work. Parts of the plot are fairly Euro-centric (i.e. jail-time for libel, a local Nazi movement run by Hitler himself). Plus, the film retains novelist Stieg Larsson's radical anti-capitalist, anti-government views, which most Americans would find unpalatable.
The future of Swedish cinema rests on movies from that country being watchable without giving up their artistic merit. Swedish filmmakers need to step outside the notion of becoming "the next Bergman" because there will only ever be one Bergman. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a great first step along that path.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo takes us into the investigation of one
Harriet Vanger, who disappeared when she was just 16 years old and has
been missing for the last 40 years. Still distraught about Harriet's
case, her uncle, Henrik Vanger, hires troubled journalist Mikael
Blomksvist to find out what happened. Along the way, he teams up with
Lisbeth Salander, an eccentric hacker genius, and what they uncover is
far worse than they could have ever imagined.
What is beautiful about this film is the simplicity of how it was made without it appearing cheap. It is proof that the lack of special effects doesn't make a film dull. In fact, it only makes other aspects shine. The movie is dialogue-driven, and a lot of things are explained through the conversations. It is quite unfortunate that I do not understand Swedish (and I had to use the subtitles while watching it) because I feel it would have been a better experience if I did.
Of course, behind these dialogues are the two leads Blomkvist and Salander. A recipe for a good movie is comprised of a compelling story, characters viewers can sympathize with and care about, and the interactions among these characters. For the most part, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is able to accomplish these things. Because of the film, I now understand why Noomi Rapace (Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows) has suddenly been propelled to the spotlight. Indeed, her performance as Lisbeth Salander is incredible. The late Stieg Larsson would have been proud of her interpretation of his title character. Salander is arguably the most unique female protagonist the industry has seen for a long time. From her looks to her personality, we see her as complex yet somebody we can understand, talented and so sure of herself and yet at the same time so awkward. Michael Nyqvist portrays Mikael Blomkvist with an air of confidence and authority that is just fitting for the character. We can understand why Salander, not big on trust, eventually warms up to him. If Salander is the loose cannon, then he is the straight arrow that holds the film together.
As a fan of the book, I believe this adaptation was able to give sufficient justice. Like in all adaptations, many elements of the story were changed. However, most of these changes were done for a smoother flow and for a more viewer-friendly experience.
Later this year, David Fincher will be making a Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Even with stars Daniel Craig and Robin Wright attached to the project, it must pack a wallop so they can surpass the high standard that this Swedish production has set. Truly, this film has made me want to venture more into European cinema and find all the wonders it has to offer.
The Verdict: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a dark, gritty, excellently-done crime drama that others will try to emulate but probably won't be able to. That being said, it is not for everyone and not for the faint of heart. There is a reason that this is Rated R. The movie is very long compared to the running time of most movies coming out recently. Thus, in order to fully enjoy and appreciate this gem, one must be patient. Everything shall fall into place and in the end, you will discover that it was one of the best ways to spend 150 minutes of your time. Trust me when I say that watching the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an intelligent, heart-wrenching, unforgettable experience.
The copy of this I rented has the presentation of a feature film, but I
think it may have been edited from a Swedish television series adapting
a trilogy of novels, of which this is the first. This version is a
little over two and a half hours, but the IMDb notes that there is a
fuller three hour version which I'm guessing might have been the
original TV presentation. What was in that extra half hour? It might
contain material that answers some of the criticisms I make below, but
I wouldn't want to bet on it.
The basic plot is that an investigative journalist, smarting from losing a libel case brought by a corrupt businessman, and facing a jail sentence (for libel? They must do things differently in Sweden), is hired by a wealthy businessman impressed with his integrity to investigate the disappearance, decades earlier, of his niece. The businessman is convinced (for reasons that are not entirely clear) that she must have been murdered by a member of his family (note that this is a very old-fashioned family-based capitalist enterprise, on the Buddenbrooks model).
With over two and half hours to explore, one might hope for some real plot and character development and some fine dramatic scenes, but the drama is almost entirely dead. Here are some of the things we don't get (I could list more, but am avoiding spoilers):
We get very little idea what the family enterprise actually is. There's a photo of a ship;are they shipbuilders, perhaps? Or are they just exporting goods?
Though the family are mostly gathered on the island, and the investigator assembles a handy photographic family tree, we scarcely get to meet most of them, even less witness any dramatic interplay between them. I remember one scene only in which the family actually get together to attempt to deter the investigator.
We have been assured by the patriarch that the family are greedy, grasping,selfish vipers, but we are treated to none of the dramatic or satirical fun that might come from this.
Though the island has great symbolic significance, it has no cinematic presence at all. The bridge that we are assured is the only way on or off the island might just as well be a bridge across a river for all the difference it makes.There is little sense of remoteness, isolation or confinement.
There is a dark undercurrent of previous Nazi involvement. But this is just stated baldly, as a fact. We get very little idea of what this meant or even really when it was. During the war? Neo-nazi revivalism? Both? And apart from the fact that we can take it as given that Nazis are nasty people, there is no attempt to explore how this actually affects their actions and beliefs.
More simply, what we have here is the Swedish equivalent of an English country house murder, basically dealing with the rich and privileged, and with the cast of suspects conveniently assembled in a single location. But instead of the detective teasing out the solution by interrogating the suspects, playing them off against each other, and catching them out, all we get is seemingly endless shots of the investigator or his computer-whiz sidekick tap-tap-tapping away on their laptops (Apple Macs, if you must know, and heaven knows you get long enough to admire the speed and smoothness of the software).
Look, I know that the Internet and cheap computing has brought about a revolution in thinking and behaving and that film-makers are struggling to come to terms with it, but let me propose a general working rule for film-makers. Computers are not dramatically interesting.
It's like voice-over. You can get away with it a bit, and sometimes it can even enhance a film; but if you find yourself relying on the voice-over, then chances are you've gone wrong. You're failing to tell the story properly in the medium of cinema, and if it's just a straight narration, your audience would be better off reading a book. So it is with computers and internet investigations. You can have a secondary character who's a computer expert, or you can have one episode of intensive computer use if the plot absolutely requires it. But if you find that the whole drama relies on it, or worse, that you have to fill all your screen-time showing it, then you can be sure you've gone badly wrong. Your audience would be better off surfing the net themselves, or composing electronic music, or photoshopping their snapshots, or playing games.
What was that? Oh, yes, the sidekick. Well, that's the woman "with the dragon tattoo", though why she has it I still don't know. It's just the title of the film. She's a young lesbian punk, though hilariously, as in every middle-aged liberal man's fantasy, the investigator succeeds in "turning" her just by the sheer non-sexist force of his personality. Oddly enough, she has her own sub-plot, involving a corrupt "probate guardian" (I think that's a subtitle mistranslation for parole or probation officer), which is much more interesting than the main story, but over rather quickly. This I think, properly scripted, would have made a much more rewarding film of about the standard 90 minute length.
And the libel case comes back at the very end, though bizarrely it seems to have nothing to do with the main story. True enough, life's generally not like that, and not everything is connected, but it is characteristic of the scriptwriter's complete absence of any sense of drama that this opportunity to create some dramatic unity is muffed.
The flashes of sexual violence, just about acceptably presented as would befit a television programme, are nothing more than a desperate attempt to inject some artificial edginess into this ditchwater dull plodding drama.
I was really surprised that this movie got an average 7,8/10 from more
than ten thousand viewers, many of whom must have read the book.
I cannot decide if it is due to the fact that I have read the book and liked it very much. Or to the Swedish acting style (I can reject this theory because I have already seen excellent Swedish films. Older ones and recent ones).
But, people, this movie sucks.
a) Acting is superficial and wooden. The only one who tries to do something, but finally does not succeed, because the others don't help, is Noomi Rapace.
b) The story advances hastily, trying to fit 550 pages into two hours and something. It gives you the feeling that it develops unnaturally and the impression that the filmmaker just took the scenes from the book one by one and "translated" them into film, without caring to connect them in a cinematic way. The language of cinema is completely different. If you don't know the rules, better don't do it.
c) There have been important changes in the story, but they really don't make things better. But don't worry, Sex and Violence scenes are all there, nothing is missing!
d) The technical part (photography,atmosphere, music) is well executed. But this impression lasts only as long as the actors don't start talking.
It is really a pity.
I first heard about the book several years ago and I didn't think I
would like it. It just sounded crazy. But when I finally sat down with
it I couldn't stop. It was absolutely gripping. It has been a few years
since I have read it so I can't be real specific. I liked it so much
that I couldn't put it down and bought the rest of the trilogy. They
were all great but the second two wandered a bit after the gripping
tension of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Thank goodness I read them
in proper order.
The first time I watched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo it was on Netflix and in Swedish. Luckily the subtitles were good. After that I had to see the English version.
What a shame that the author died shortly after he finished the third on. I would have loved to read more of his writing.
Heck, I liked the books and movies so much that I made a website at http://thedragontattoogirl.com. I hope to have more info on there soon.
Fans of Pauley Perrette's role as Abby on NCIS, will love the character
Lisbeth Salander, a goth girl played by Noomi Rapace. She turns a great
thriller into something much more interesting.
Lisbeth is supposed to be the best hacker in Sweden, and Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who has a short time before he enters prison for libel, finds her to help look for the lost niece of a billionaire (Sven-Bertil Taube).
The film is brutal is some respects, as Lisbeth is abused by the man who controls her money. She is forced to have sex with him before she can collect. However she manages to turn the tables, and it is delicious.
When they discover the secret, it is even more heinous than they imagined.
But, things go on from there, and I would not reveal the surprising ending. It was sweet.
Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist were perfect.
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