Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Män som hatar kvinnor; thriller, Sweden/ Denmark, 2009; D: Niels Arden Oplev, S: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber

Stockholm. After loosing a libel case following allegations that tycoon Wennerstrom was selling arms, reporter and editor of the 'Millennium' magazine Michael Blomkvist is so devastated that he accepts an offer by the 82-year old Henrik Vanger to find his grand-niece Harriet who disappeared 40 years ago. At the same time, Lisbeth Salander (24) is a rebellious computer hacker who takes revenge on a lawyer, her legal guardian, for raping her - she already took revenge on her stepfather by setting him on fire when she was a kid. She teams up with Michael and they discover that Harriet's brother Martin killed numerous Jewish girls since his father was a member of the Nazi party. He also finds out that Harriet is still alive and only escaped because she killed her father who raped her.

Winner of a BAFTA as best foreign language films, the first movie adaptation of Stieg Larsson's famous crime novel trilogy 'Millennium', "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a robust and strong thriller that plays out like an Agatha Christie type investigative mystery case delayed by 40 years and at the same time aligns itself towards an ode against rape. Some details may be a tad contrived in staying true to that message or are slightly roughly patched together, especially towards the finale (it features, for example, the classic cliche of a bad guy not killing his victim instantly, but waiting until it wakes up to tell him all about his previous crimes; the annoying "hero gets saved in the nick of time" stereotype...), yet as a whole the story works and its flow seems entirely natural, except for the rather pointless subplot involving the lawyer rapist - he is basically a one-dimensional bad guy, set-up so unconvincingly evil that he cannot be perceived in any other way than as a plot device to carry the film's message against rape. The already infamous sequence where the lawyer rapes Lisbeth (very good Noomi Rapace in punk clothes) is shocking but rather even and short, actually turning more horrifying after the sole event when the film shows its consequences (in one scene, Lisbeth's hands are shaking when she holds a cigarette after that incident). It's a stretch, yet it could be argued that it somehow fits into the big picture when Lisbeth teams up with Michael to investigate a whole series of rapes and crimes against women. With very good actors, fine cinematography, nice locations and an eye for detail, this film is never boring despite its running time of 150 minutes.


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