The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo won the Guldbagge Award, which is Sweden's version of the Oscar. It's based on the first crime novel in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. Stieg Larsson was a journalist whose trilogy was published posthumously. The books made him one of the best-selling authors in the world. This film also has become one the biggest grossing movies in European cinema. When on the Charlie Rose show, its Danish director, Niels Arden Oplev, described the movie as playing like a modern Agatha Christie mystery but with a dark angel at its center, an attraction in and of herself.
Oplev also made the connections that this film is a Scandinavian The Silence of the Lambs meets La Femme Nikita. It features Noomi Rapace who stars as Lisbeth Salander, a young woman who has short black hair, black eye makeup, black clothes, two nose rings, multiple piercings in one ear and who looks like a goth girl. She's fierce but works as a computer hacker and virtual spy.
Lisbeth is tasked with investigating a disgraced journalist named Mikael Blomkvist. Blomkvist leaves Stockholm to take a job by Henrik Vanger, a 82-year-old man who believes his niece who disappeared four decades ago is still alive, although everyone else in his family assume she's dead. Blomkvist accepts the job because Vanger's niece actually used to be his babysitter.
After she's abused and raped, Lisbeth leaves her computer job and joins Blomkvist in his search for Vanger's niece. They uncover news reports of a possible serial killer going back to 1949. A Swedish cold case heats up. Without spoiling too much about the movie, Lisbeth and Blomkvist are able to catch the culprit using financial records and how the killer used his business to commit his crimes, and there's a great line that Lisbeth says, "You think he got a tax deduction for murder?"
It's a great line for one of the most interesting characters put on screen this year. Her actions make her the most interesting as well. People will certainly remember Lisbeth from now until the American remake of this movie comes out. Yet, the mystery that drives this movie forward may have an Agatha Christie feel is less of a draw than with what many American audiences may be satisfied.
Lisbeth has almost a separate storyline for about the first hour of this movie before her character teams up with Blomkvist. It's at that point that the movie really slows down. You get a lot of slow zooms and cross dissolves with black-and-white photos from 1966. There is a brief love affair and a setup for the next movie about Lisbeth's revenge by fire, but I wasn't that impressed with the serial killer reveal.
Sweden is seen as a great country for human rights, but Larsson, through his book, wanted to show that there are dark parts to Sweden, including Nazi connections and violence against women. I think this film is a good realization of that and a fairly decent adaptation, but it was perhaps too long.
Four Stars out of Five
Rated R for rape, grisly images, nudity and violence