Trisha's Take: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo review

Män som hatar kvinnor (“Men That Hate Women”)
aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
Starring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube

Two months ago, we learned that there would be an English-language film adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is the first in a planned trilogy of novels knows as the Millenium trilogy. At the time I said that I hadn’t read the book yet and that there was no work on when the original Swedish-language film adaptation would be released by Music Box Films.

Luckily, we now know that it will be going into wide release on March 19 and I got to see a preview of it last night. And I have to tell you perfectly honestly:

The executives at Sony Pictures are nuts for wanting to remake this film.

Why go to all the trouble of hiring someone like Steve Zaillian to write the script when there’s a perfectly decent adaptation of the novel by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg? Why hire a new director when Niels Arden Oplev has already spent the time directing fine performances from his stars Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace?

I still haven’t read the book, but I can tell you that a friend of mine who has read it and went with me to the screening said that though parts were cut out, he could understand and see why they were in the pursuit of trimming a 572 page hardbound book into something that is a good feature length without having to switch reels too often.

Let me break it down for you, but not too thoroughly: Nyqvist plays Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist who is about to serve a six month prison sentence for libel because he’d printed something about a huge conglomerate that ended up not being true. Except, his publisher and some of his friends at the magazine/newspaper (which is called Millenium, hence the name of the trilogy) believe he’s been set up to take a fall but there’s no proof.

Meanwhile, punk-gothic hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has been hired by rich industrialist Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) to do a thorough background check on Blomkvist because Vanger would like to hire him to look into the disappearance of his beloved niece Harriet who disappeared from the secluded family island 40 years ago. He believes that she’s been murdered and he wants to finally know for certain what happened to her.

An interesting thing about how this movie is paced is that Blomkvist and Salander don’t even meet until well after the first act of the movie is over. I am not irked at all that the movie takes its precious time getting to their first in-person meeting because of some important scenes that take place which may wind up sending those whose PTSD is easily triggered by scenes of violence and sexual abuse upon women into a severe state of shock.

Another interesting thing about how this movie and the original book is titled is that it gives away a major theme surrounding Harriet’s disappearance. However, because the English-language book title focuses more on the crime and romance novel system of similar naming in a series, it easily gets lost in the shuffle.

The third most interesting thing about this movie is that even though certain plot points were telegraphed and composer Jacob Groth did a damn fine job of making me cringe with his musical cues during scenes where I knew that there would be an unpleasant surprise, I did not care one whit about the translucency because it was just so entertaining. The audience of fellow members of the press, Academy members, and other associated film industry folk seemed to agree with me to the point of breaking out into tension-relieving laughter after such a scene close to the climax.

The fourth most interesting thing about this movie is that even though it’s most easily classified as a classic mystery, it’s also just a bit noir, just a bit revenge flick, and there are even romantic elements that made my heart go pitter-pat. I can only imagine that the book’s even better.

And though it’s not the last, the final thing I’ll mention as being so damn interesting about this movie is that even though there are some truly evil characters in the movie, I didn’t hate a single one of them. All of them were necessary to the plot, all of them added to the weight of the movie’s themes, all of the actors did a fine job portraying them.

I do have to admit that for the first 30 minutes of the movie and every now and then when something showed up in the movie that was just so non-American that it made me pause I found myself thinking of how one would translate what was happening on the screen to an American audience. I quickly gave up because not only was I drawn into the movie so deeply, I was also struck by how important it is that this movie takes place in Sweden complete with the Swedish culture.

It is supremely important to Lisbeth’s character that she has been thrown into a system where your probation officer also directly controls your finances. It is so very vital to the plot that though Blomkvist has been found guilty of libel and will be serving a prison term that he is free to travel to places that are connected to Harriet’s disappearance.

If I don’t want to undertake the mental gyrations necessary to translate that into something that the average movie-going-American-who-hasn’t-read-the-book would understand, why even try? Why does the Hollywood system underestimate its audience’s ability to empathize with people who don’t speak the same language we do? Oh, that’s right… we can’t even understand or empathize with the culture of a country whose citizens mostly speak the same language we do.

Still, if my single five-star review can get even one of you to run to the nearest town that will be showing this, then I’ll not have written these words in vain.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has not been officially rated but I’d say it will get a hard R due to language, scenes of graphic violence and female frontal and human rear nudity. And yes, some of that graphic violence involves women and sexual situations, so those who are easily triggered by that need to be warned as well.

Posted on February 25, 2010 at 09:07 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: Reviews

2 Responses

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  1. Written by FSugino
    on 2010-02-25 at 15:31

    As Trisha says, this is a very good movie. And very faithful to the book, too – amazingly so. Well worth seeing.

    If you get a chance, check out The Girl Who Played With Fire, which is the second flick in the Millennium trilogy (the third is The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest). All three films feature the same central cast, and while I haven't seen the third one yet I can report that the second is almost as good as the first. Can't wait to see the third and final chapter.

  2. Written by Trisha Lynn
    on 2010-02-25 at 19:08

    Alas, because I don't cotton to piracy and my only DVD player is my PS2, I'm not sure if and when I'd be able to get a copy of the next two films. I also have a feeling that whether or not Music Box can or has the rights to distribute the second two will depend on how this one does in the theaters so even if you've already seen it, go see it again!

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