Peter Eramo Reviews: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (****)
May 2, 2010 5 Comments
This film is certainly not for the faint-of-heart, but I am convinced that this grisly, fascinating Swedish thriller will be near the very top of the year’s best when 2010 draws to an end. Based on the popular novel by Stieg Larsson, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is nothing short of a superb, well-crafted film, with outstanding performances and taut, stylish direction by Niels Arden Oplev. I am surprised to see it playing in a number of select “art-house” theatres around me – so if you see it around and you are not one of those ignorant Americans who are averse to reading subtitles, check out the trailer and see this wonderful movie.
Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who is charged with defamation and is found guilty. The news is spread all over papers and television. Before serving his brief sentence, he is hired by the patriarch of the Vanger Concern (a wealthy & powerful family) to find his niece’s murderer. Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger mysteriously disappeared on the island owned by the Vanger’s and her body was never found. The uncle is convinced that the killer is a member of his own dark and troubled family, even though every year he receives a gift of nicely framed pressed flowers, which he thinks is sent by the murderer to taunt him.
Blomkvist pairs up with professional computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (a remarkable Noomi Rapace) to investigate. She is tattooed, tough-as-nails, and a ward of the state who needs a legal guardian for a crime (though from flashbacks, it sure looked warranted) she committed years ago. The two begin to peel off layer after layer in trying to break this unsolved 40-year old case and in doing so, discover a link to a number of grotesque murders. They also begin to uncover a dark and twisted family history of this secretive clan.
Noomi Rapace is magnificent here playing the very complex and challenging role of Lisbeth and though it is only May should get some serious Oscar consideration here as I doubt there will be many performances that match this display right here. She exhibits a merciless, cutthroat behavior in one scene and easily transforms to that of a helpless and frightened little girl in the next. She has some gruesome, nearly unwatchable scenes to film here too. Two scenes in particular are opposite the older gentleman who has become her new legal guardian, though brilliantly executed are graphic and haunting. Rapace creates a fascinating character out of Lisbeth – a constant enigma living in a world filled with filthy and brutal men…and we certainly empathize with her throughout.
Michael Nyqvist is also excellent here as the disgraced journalist who falls into much more than he bargained for. The supporting cast is stellar, Peter Haber in particular. These are all actors I’m sure none of us have heard of – but so what…they’re amazing. One scene that I was blown away by takes place near the end in a basement…I don’t want to give anything away here, but I will say that the exchange between these two men is completely flawless…absolutely riveting.
At its core, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a mystery – and we go along on the journey set off by Blomkvist and Salander. The plot is filled with great twists and turns. The unforgiving, cold Swedish winter terrain adds to the tone and mood of the film. I have not read the books (it is part of a trilogy, I believe), but have read that this is very faithful to the novel. The film doesn’t stop and you are glued to the screen for over two hours. However, it does slow up in the final 15 minutes or so after the film’s climax which kills all of the momentum – but you understand why it continues after seeing the very last scene of the film. A great surprise of a film – and I am now eagerly awaiting the second installment (of the trilogy) due to be released this summer. It did win Sweden’s equivalent of the Oscar in the “Best Picture” and “Best Actress” categories already — so I am hoping that the A.M.P.A.S. takes equal note of this grand achievement.