The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
You have no idea what I’m capable of …

Theatrical Release Date: 03/19/2010 (USA), 02/27/2009 (Sweden)
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube, Lena Endre, Peter Haber, Peter Andersson, Ingvar Hirdwall, Marika Lagercrantz, Ewa Fröling, Julia Sporre

Golden Mug2010 Golden Mug

Best Adapted Screenplay (Nikolaj Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg)


I left my clothes down here somewhere.

Trilogies seem to be all the rage these days and Sweden didn’t want to be left out of the mix – hence American audiences are getting the first of late author Steig Larssen’s trilogy, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (playdates can be found here). Sweden awarded the film their Oscar equivalent (the Guldbagge) of Best Film and Best Actress (Noomi Rapace).

The film is a often harsh and brutal look at an abused girl (Rapace) with a talent for hacking, a photographic memory and a willingness to repay those who wrong her. She ends up joining forces with a disgraced journalist (Michael Nyqvist) now on the hunt for information about a girl who went missing 40 years ago. Together they navigate their way through a wealthy and dysfunctional family, most of whom seem to have had the opportunity and motive to commit that crime, as well as others that are uncovered along the way.

And when I say ‘crime’, what I should say is torture, rape and murder. Make no mistake, this film is not for the faint of heart and is at times disturbing and difficult to watch (not quite in “Irreversible” territory but very, very close). Director Niels Arden Oplev did not shy away much from keeping the book’s dark events from transpiring on-screen, nor did he simplify the multiple plot threads for audiences. You definitely want to come in with a focused mind, in order to keep all of the juggling balls in order. None of it was too confusing or too hard to follow but stepping out for a smoke might not be a good choice if you want to keep up with things.

In order to keep things interesting, we have to become engaged in the characters and the cast was perfectly suited for the task. First and foremost, Rapace fully embraced this challenging role – playing the victim and the predator with equal ability. The character is clearly struggling to be a good person but is still fighting against her past and present. The rumor that “Twilight’s” Kristen Stewart is interested in playing a part in the planned remake (please don’t, Hollywood) has me in equal fits of laughter and tears – and if any American actress might be able to capture the duality of the character, it’d be Ellen Page who played a similar role in “Hard Candy” (but I reiterate, don’t do this Hollywood).

Fighting the good fight alongside Rapace is Michael Nyqvist. He admirably balanced his character’s morality with a dogged pursuit for the truth. He is essentially the spokesperson for the audience and it is through him that we maintain a sense of order and justice while nearly everyone else plays out our darker side.

To that end, one of the strongest performances comes from Peter Andersson, who is Rapace’s newly appointed probation officer of sorts. He’s as slimy, creepy and vile as they come and the despicable acts he forces upon Rapace are the ones that will test audiences the most. While it’s hard to find anything to like about the scenes, Andersson clearly wasn’t shy about fully delving into the character and anyone in real life who could be like him should probably not be allowed anywhere near another living creature.

As for the other film making aspects, the film is well shot and takes advantage of the often sparse, but beautifully so, Swedish countryside. Like another 2008 film from the same country, “Let the Right One In“, the landscape becomes another character unto itself – it’s stark and icy nature mirroring the emotions of the cast.

Is “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” a film you see on a sunny day because you want a light getaway? No. Hell no. The material is challenging and definitely borders on sadistic pseudo-porn. However, there is a reason for all of it and while this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Oplev and his cast have delivered a film that doesn’t flinch at showing audience’s the darker sides of humanity. A 4 out of 5, I’m looking forward to completing the trilogy – whether it’s in cinemas or on DVD (since I’m sure the distributor is awaiting box office tallies from this to determine financing the theatrical release of the final chapters).

4 out of 5