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Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Could Easily Kick My Ass

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo = 4 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Morell: This is the first lead we've had in 39 years.
Mikael Blomkvist: Well, it's a good start.
Currently, as far as foreign films go, anything coming out of either Korea or Sweden is gonna be getting my attention. The films that have been breaking out of these two areas are consistently turning out to be very well made and interesting. The film here is based on the first novel of a very popular trilogy of books by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, involving a murder mystery and a young woman with a troubled past. It's exceptionally well made and acted.

The film begins with Mikael Blomkvist, played by Michael Nyqvist, an investigative journalist, who writes for the magazine Millennium, losing a libel case against corrupt Swedish industrialist and is sentenced to three months in jail. Before beginning his sentence, Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Vanger, the aged former CEO of a group of companies owned by a wealthy dynasty. Vanger wants him to solve the disappearance, nearly 40 years ago, of his great-niece when she was sixteen. Vanger is convinced that the girl was killed by someone in his family.

Blomkvist is ultimately helped in his quest by Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a young, chain smoking, tattooed girl, who has been victimized and misunderstood by the authorities throughout her whole life, but who is also a brilliant computer hacker. Lisabeth was in fact hired to investigate Blomkvist before turning her sights on the investigation that Blomkvist had been working on, only to eventually become more personally involved. Lisabeth must also deal with some issues of her own involving her new parole officer.

At two and a half hours, this movie is certainly long, and full of subplots (no doubt sticking closely to its source material) but even the areas that aren't necessary to the overall plot never feel out of place or make the film slow down, because it is all very involved and makes the characters more interesting. It's a credit to the filmmakers at work here, for making a very well paced film that keeps its story interesting, as well as quite thrilling when it needs to be.

Certainly helping is the work of the two leads. The early portions of the film keep them separate, creating our understandings of the characters (as any film would) only to create an even stronger dynamic once they meet and get on with the story. Nyqvist excels at playing mild mannered journalist mixed with nothing to lose, but it is Rapace that creates the more interesting character. Its a tough and complicated state of mind created for a young woman to play, providing a sense of mystery while also showing that she can be quite bad ass when it is required of her, both in terms of her knowledge and through violence.

While there are moments of humor, mainly stemming from the chemistry between the leads, this is certainly not a sunny film. As the story progresses and more reveals present themselves in terms of what other past crimes have been committed, one can't help but think of other dark crime dramas such as Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, and even LA Confidential on some levels.

The film is certainly superbly made and although the same director did not film the two sequels that will be following this feature, I am certainly looking forward to see where these characters go.

Mikael Blomkvist: You know, ever since I've got here you've been telling me to leave.

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