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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2010)

A 2009 Swedish film directed by Niels Arden Oplev.

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A great whodunnit thriller that comes at a time where whodunnit thrillers seem almost extinct.

  • Apr 29, 2012
**** 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 niece whenever he so much as takes a walk around the premises of his mansion. He cannot cope with life without knowing the truth - he must reach a conclusion - and so he revives the case by hiring the infamous journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who is to be imprisoned in about six months for losing a libel case concerning the billionaire Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Henrik sets Mikael up in a small cottage still located on the Vanger estate, and it is there that he conducts most of his research.

Enter Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the woman who acquired the information on Blomkvist for Henrik in the first place. Lisbeth is characterized by her appearance and her occupation; she could be easily labeled as a punk/Goth girl with obvious but unidentifiable emotional burdens, the kind of chick who is attractive but incredibly secretive. She also drives a motorcycle, and happens to be very talented in the field of computer hacking. For the first hour or so of the film, she doesn't meet up with Mikael, although we know that eventually she'll have to. That's how these stories go. And so when Lisbeth meets Mikael; it becomes clear that these are two great minds, and great minds think alike - and on the most fascinating of occasions, differently.

In a complicated whodunit narrative with absolutely brilliant structure and flawless pacing, Blomkvist snoops around and meets the extended Vanger family, while Lisbeth deals with the more juicy stuff. Over time, the two bond a little, although Mikael finds Lisbeth unpredictable, which both angers and fascinates him at the same time. Needless to say, the two make an effective pair; their progress is stunt-like in its rapid succession over time, and the conversations held between the two of them are always very intellectually stimulating. If you've seen murder mystery-thrillers of both the past and present, then you'll know that one of the key elements to any story within that genre is going in knowing as little as possible. You'll also know some of what to expect, as this is not the kind of film that intends to be a game changer. But then again, sometimes, it doesn't take a game changer at all to blow you away.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a fierce and relentless movie. I did not know that films of its kind could be made anymore, but then again, it is a Swedish import (if you live anywhere other than Sweden, that is). It is also uncompromising, intoxicating, disarming, and absolutely brilliant. There are many who could claim the worldwide success that the film has since enjoyed, although two names are primarily responsible. First, the author of the "Millenium" book trilogy, Stieg Larson; and second, the director of the first film adaptation, Niels Arden Oplev. The former is responsible for the material; the latter is credited for respectively bringing it to the big screen unmarred.

Aside from abiding by the ground rules of the mystery thriller, the story is perhaps most memorable for its characters rather than its twists and turns. On paper, Lisbeth Salander was a heroine that an inspired female reader could perhaps look up to, and in the film, she is portrayed as a wounded woman living a violent life in which she commits at least 50% of that violence, which is sometimes directed towards others and sometimes towards herself. Once we have seen the flashbacks depicting a very dark childhood for the character, we get the sense that she is deep and complex; and having never read the source novel(s), I hope the depths of her very dark and very human soul are explored in great detail in the two sequels (both of which I have yet to see, and Hollywood has yet to touch). And as for Mikael Blomkvist, well, he's a decent enough guy; he might have a troubled past as well, but oh, who wants to hear about that. The popular opinion is that the Lisbeth character is what makes the material so compelling, and after witnessing Rapace's performance in that particular role, I must agree with such an opinion.

Oplev directs with an eye for detail. He doesn't simply stick to one style, and instead chooses to employ a few along the way. He decides to have fun with how he chooses to depict and film specific sequences. For instance, there are many scenes that feel simplistic in their purely technical aspects; and then there are those which are unrelenting in their tension, and others in which the camera might as well be going completely bat-shit in comparison to how it's been used for what makes up the rest of the film. The cinematographers were Eric Kress and Jens Fischer. Both did an exceptional job at helping Oplev to achieve his master vision. The score by Jacob Groth is sinister and foreboding; at one moment, in the moment, and at another, not in the moment at all. While the story itself may take on a structure that will come off to many as familiar (and therefore "unoriginal"), the style of the film itself is hard to predict. It's never quite what you want it to be.

Most American viewers will find the content difficult to swallow. If you don't want to see a movie that goes where most people would never want to go at all - the dark corners of the human soul - then you probably should do your best to avoid this one. However, if you want a deep, challenging character study with impeccable directorial flare; then you'll want to see "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" as soon as possible. While the high-quality suspense and performances aim to entertain, the on-screen violence and sexual perversion depicted towards women does not; but this material should not be labeled as misogynistic. If anything, there are undertones of raw feminism. So don't you dare imply otherwise. Because by the end of the film, you'll have seen first-hand what the girl with the titular tattoos is willing to do to those who have done her wrong. And you don't want to be getting involved with that.

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May 13, 2012
This was an excellent movie- a little unpolished with the direction but it gave it more character. great job with the review!
May 01, 2012
Even after all that's been written about the movie, you've added an interesting perspective with your insights. Well done, and thank you.
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 . July 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Imposingly Violent, Excellent Acting, Tight Plotting Sets a Tone of Alarm and Intimacy....
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 …
Quick Tip by . June 04, 2013
Disgraced Swedish magazine publisher takes on a case for a businessman in finding who killed his niece so many years ago, but he needs help and enlists a talented hacker to help him who has a few issues of her own. Swedish version of the film has a more taut pace and smoother story telling then it's American counterpart that debuted a few years later.
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 . August 02, 2010
About the VCR
After finishing the Stieg Larsson remarkable trilogy, I heard from two people, on separate occasions, that they watched the VCR of Larsson’s first book and thought it was one of the best movies that they ever saw. Like most people who have read a good book, especially one with well-drawn-out characters, delightful descriptions, and many unusual events, like this book, I would have preferred not to see the movie version because, the nature of movies, especially the time constraints and the …
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 …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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