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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2010)

A 2009 Swedish film directed by Niels Arden Oplev.

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Imposingly Violent, Excellently Acted With A Tight Plotting Sets a Tone of Unease and Intimacy....

  • Jul 16, 2010

I have to say that Sweden is beginning to have a great reputation in adapting books into the silver screen. Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev helms “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (“Man som hatar kvinnor whose subtitle means “The Man Who Hates Women”) a Swedish drama-thriller based on the first book of the “Millennium Trilogy” written by the late Stieg Larsson which proved to be a world-wide hit. Hollywood is due to make its own adaptation of the book with David Fincher at its helm and it seems like they are just about ready to remake Swedish films after they’ve done the same to Asian films and everything else. (Hollywood is about to remake “Let The Right One In”) I bet you dollars to doughnuts that they will miss the point to all these Foreign films and books. The Book is set in Sweden and changes to the location of its setting usually never works out; but enough rant, I am here to review the Swedish version which I am almost certain will be superior to its American rendition.

Wrongfully found guilty of Libel, Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) is a journalist who has been sentenced to serve a term in prison. He has 6 months (I am not sure how this works out in Swedish law) as a free man before he serves his sentence and now without a job, Mikael accepts the offer of a wealthy patriarch of the powerful Vanger family. Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) wants Mikael to find the truth of the presumed murder of a young 16-year old that occurred 40 years ago. While Mikael goes about his investigation, an investigator/researcher named Lisbeth Salanger (Noomi Rapace) tracks his movements while she deals with her psychological issues and an abusive “guardian” (probation officer in America). As Mikael goes deeper in his investigations, he gets unexpected help from Lisbeth in deducing some codes; who then agrees to aid Mikael in his mission. Working together, the two begin to forge an uneasy friendship, as they slowly find the dark secrets of the Vanger family and what they find is something more evil than they first bargained for…

                     Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

                    Lena Endre and Michael Nyqvist in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is about a few things: A 40 year-old unsolved murder. Nazis. A Financial scandal. A Reporter who has been dishonored. An Emotionally insensitive woman who hacks computers. A Family secret. That pretty much sums up the premise of this Swedish film. It is also important that the subtitle of the film’s title is “The Man Who Hates Women” in order to appreciate the common denominator that gives its elements a connection. The film has strong themes of violence against women both expressed onscreen and hinted at. There is quite a few scenes of sex and nudity with one unnerving rape scene. Most folks would turn away from this film since some scenes are quite graphic but it never feels tasteless or exploitive. It is a powerful ingredient that is important to the film’s narrative and to not explore and include this graphic element would lessen the impact of the film’s story.

The script does do a fantastic job in balancing out the story with the more reminiscent elements of the book with the direction. The film does miss some details about Mikael’s previous love affairs, dispenses some hints of financial subplot and gives a a somewhat rushed summary of the family history; director Oplev was able to allow the viewer to form a connection to the story. The movie begins with some background on our characters, and what leads to this investigation. There is a certain feeling of urgency in the proceedings, but it never feels rushed. The screenplay was able to make the mystery quite compelling. The structure of the film may be a little flawed at times but it never ceases to enthrall the viewer; it was a clever move that Oplev seemed to get the viewer involved in the investigation as the answer to the mystery is seen step-by-step so the viewer feels that they were with the two main protagonists’ as they go through the clues. I appreciate this approach even when the film tries to misdirect your attention, you feel that the twists and turns are credible and never comes from left field.

                   Director Niels Arden Oplev and Michael Nyqvist on the set of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

I guess what really made the movie successful is the fact that the lead actor was very effective in playing the role of Mikael. He had that personality that is strong and yet so cautious; that he relies on facts rather on guesses. Michael Nyqvist seemed to be real comfortable with the role and he was able to form a chemistry with this goth girl. The character of Lisbeth Salander is actually the “girl” in the film’s International title. This young woman in her twenties may well be one of the most intriguing and yet bizarre characters ever portrayed in film. Lisbeth has layers upon layers of personality that the screenplay breaks down piece by piece. Being a film, the director cannot bring us deep into her psyche so Oplev has to rely on her personality and the actress who portrays her. Much her development occurs in the form of small flashbacks and through expressions, she has her issues and they seemed to have made her stronger; this is one badass woman.

                    Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

                     Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander and Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Director Oplev also makes use of some powerful visual images and relies on the subtle expression of emotion. This is a film where more is said through the eyes, the smile and the usual shrug; so make sure you pay attention to the sequences. Much of the film is about the investigation of the mystery; and Oplev has the skill to make the visuals stand out as a part of the film’s expression. Foreign films have the uncanny knack of expressing through simplicity and this film is no different. I guess if the movie had a flaw, its pace feels a little uneven at times, there were some scenes that felt a little stretched out.

“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is a film about secrets and revaltions; its slower pace is part of its strength. The film encourages the viewer to get to know its characters piece by piece as it takes you on a ride to solve this familial mystery. There are some character staples at times but I didn’t really feel bothered by them since the performances and the way it developed the story felt really gripping. Please see this Swedish Film before Hollywood massacres it with a  U.S. movie adaptation. I guarantee; an Americanized version will (most likely) never work. No way can either Carey Mulligan or Kristen Stewart (Twilight) compare with the awesomeness that is Noomi Rapace. Noomi Rapace is indeed Lisbeth Salander.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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Imposingly Violent, Excellent Acting, Tight Plotting Sets a Tone of Alarm and Intimacy....

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July 29, 2010
Great stuff! I'm really enjoying this series and can't wait for the next movie before Hollywood hires Kristen Stewart to play Lisbeth Salander in the Americanized remake. Can anyone spell barf?
August 15, 2010
Thanks, Brian! Sorry for the late reply--you'd better see this before H-wood kills the movie LOL! Oh, btw, I managed to see its sequel today and you bet I dropped a review for it.
July 19, 2010
I watched this film last week and it is on my list of "things to review." As usual, my recommendation and rating are in line with your own. Nicely done (the film, and your review).
July 21, 2010
Thanks, John! I hope you join me under this data point. :)
July 16, 2010
Hollywood just can't fight the urge to piss all over everything. Remember the 80s (I think) when they had to remake all those French comedies like THREE MEN AND A BABY and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES?
July 17, 2010
Yes, I do remember. seems like they try to adapt everything for so-called "American audiences" when American audiences know a lot better than to settle for an inferior remake. I am pissed of what I read about what they plan to do with "Let The Right One In"...they are making it a freakin' love story when it is most assuredly not.
July 17, 2010
(the sound of a foreign film fan vomiting on the infamous Hollywood sign)
July 17, 2010
I wonder if they will rewirte it so that the vampire is a buff male who glitters.
July 16, 2010
Good review. I haven't read the books yet and I'm not sure when I'll get the time to, but I'll probably see the film after that... maybe. From what I've heard the character and the plot line are actually very close to what an old friend of mine went through, so it may prove to be too disturbing.
July 17, 2010
really? a friend of yours went through something similar to this? I am so sorry to hear that...but I have to say I can relate.
July 17, 2010
Yeah, but I'm not going into details. Plus, I haven't seen her in years since she went to a drug rehab.
July 17, 2010
I just hope she is ok. It is tough to go through those things. No details necessary. I know someone who went through the same too.
September 01, 2010
Oh, man. I was so disappointed with this film...
September 01, 2010
I know, I just saw your QT...
July 16, 2010
I have been wondering about this, sounds good WP.
July 16, 2010
It is pretty good, man. See this before H-wood messes it up. No way is its premise going to fit the H-wood style of film making.
More The Girl With the Dragon Tatto... reviews
review by . June 04, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Sweeden's bright skies wiped away the sicking green night. How does that make you feel?
It's always hard to hear that when an American company is adapting a foreign film.  The general opinion is that it will often suck.  David Fincher's adaption though two years after this film was released proved that isn't always the case, and in any adaption there is always going to be comparisons between the two as to which one people like or which one is closer to the source material.  I haven't read the book yet, but depending on who you ask, either one is the case.   …
review by . April 29, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    In 2002, a case involving the disappearance of a young woman from nearly sixty years ago is re-opened by the girl's great granduncle, Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), who believes not only that his niece was murdered, but by a family member too. In the year of 1966, when she first disappeared, very thorough searches were conducted and nothing - nor no one - was found. Henrik has not been able to give up. He himself admits to sort of looking for his lost …
review by . August 02, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
For the last two years or so, there's been a pretty large phenomenon relating to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I've consistently heard good things about the books and Swedish films, and fairly recently with David Fincher's adaptation of the TGWTDT books, I've had more people talk about it with me more. Finally, I decided to invest some time in my night tonight to watch the first Swedish film in its extended cut form, since it was free video for Amazon Prime users. Boy am I glad …
review by . November 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
It's a rare occurrence when the film version can adequately capture the essence of the best selling book on which it's based, but, that's exactly what happened with this version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist are perfectly cast as Lisbeth and Blomkvist. They've had to ditch a lot of detail, and compress a lot of the action, of course, but that takes nothing away from the suspense of the original story. The supporting characters at Millenium, …
review by . April 17, 2010
posted in Reel Overseas
This might hurt a little
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO      Written by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg Directed by Niels Arden Oplev   Starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace      Mikael Blomkvist: As we’ve been sharing files recently, I assume you’re up to date.      Expectations are tricky to avoid when you watch a movie from the last year that has already generated enough international buzz to warrant a fast tracked American remake …
review by . July 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Perhaps it is the current need to see that evil eventually consumes itself that make films like THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (AKA "Män som hatar kvinnor") so successful. Or it may be the posthumous fame given Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy (from which this film is 'Millennium: Part 1 - Men Who Hate Women') that has prepared an audience of believers. Whatever the reason this first installment (the other two installments have already been filmed and are ready for release) is being hailed as …
Quick Tip by . September 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I was so disappointed with this film. I can't imagine why it or the book has gotten so much praise. The characters lack any real motivation or psychology, the entire story is filled with giant plot holes, and almost every thriller cliche is employed without any restraint. Perhaps this is one of those cases where people assume it's good because it's in another language... The only praise I can give here is that the actors did a brilliant job fleshing out the weak characters.
review by . April 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Released just in time to happily mesh with the American publishing advent of the last book in the Millennium trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson, this film adaptation of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" should provide admirers of Lisbeth Salander (hacker extraordinaire and victim of a renegade faction of the Swedish social system) with more than enough fan-tastic material to orbit them into "Girl" heaven.    Director Niels Arden Oplev depicts a Sweden icy in its efficiency; its …
Quick Tip by . September 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Not having read the book (one of the few it seems) I had no idea what to expect. I thought it was a terrific movie: taut, compelling, really interesting characters, no plot holes, atmospheric, brutal, sexy, funny. All in all a great two and half hours that seemed much shorter, and with no fat to trim. Why after that only 4 stars - well, it's terrifically entertaining, but it's no Fanny and Alexander. OK? I'm wondering though, this movie could have been called The Girl with the Pierced …
Quick Tip by . September 06, 2010
Not having read the book (one of the few it seems) I had no idea what to expect. I thought it was a terrific movie: taut, compelling, really interesting characters, no plot holes, atmospheric, brutal, sexy, funny. All in all a great two and half hours that seemed much shorter, and with no fat to trim. Why after that only 4 stars - well, it's terrifically entertaining, but it's no Fanny and Alexander.  OK?      On second thought, this movie could have been called …
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor, also known as Men Who Hate Women in English) is a 2009  Swedish film directed by Niels Arden Oplev. It is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by the late Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson, the first in his "Millennium Trilogy". By August 2009, it had been sold to 25 countries outside Scandinavia, most of them planning a release in 2010, and had been seen by more than 6 million people in the countries where it was already released.  The film was released in the United States on March 19th, 2010 by Music Box Films, which will also release the second and third films in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, later in 2010.
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Director: Niels Arden Oplev
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: July 6, 2010
Runtime: 152 minutes
Studio: Music Box Films Home Entertainment
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