THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
(Män Som Hatar Kvinnor)
I went into watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo not sure if it was a work that I was going to write about on this site. It falls into the long established genre of the investigative thriller genre one that involves characters, usually detectives, methodically piecing together clues to solve a murder. This is a genre that has largely dropped away on cinema screens in the last decade or so, having been supplanted by forensic thrillers such as tvs CSI: Crime Scene Investigators (2000-15) or the realism-based detective stories of NYPD Blue (1993-2005) and the various Law and Order shows, with occasional traditional holdouts still appearing on British television. Cinematically, the last investigate thriller to appear on screens would have to be the non-fiction Zodiac (2007), unless one wants to count something like The Da Vinci Code (2006).
Like any good murder mystery, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo creates a captivating puzzle and draws one in. The film generates a great fascination to watching what would normally be the dull and painstaking process of piecing together clues from photographs, cryptic diary entries and watching people pore through old ledgers. There is not a huge amount in the way of action a brief fight sequence, a scene where Michael Nyqvist is shot at but the films unfoldings still remain entirely captivating.
The one puzzle about the story as it starts is the double structure. There is the main thread following Michael Nyqvist as he begins the investigation into the secrets of the Vanger family. Alongside this, for at least the first half of the film, there is a parallel plot following Noomi Rapaces Lisbeth Salander and principally her dealings with a corrupt probation officer (Peter Andersson) who blackmails her into having sex with him. We are not sure how these two strands connect up until the two characters eventually come together. These scenes hold a grim and nasty scene where the probation officer handcuffs Noomi to a bed and rapes her and an equally powerful sequence where she takes revenge on him, which comes with all the primal red-blooded turning of tables that we get in films like Day of the Woman/I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and Dirty Weekend (1992). The complaint might be that this is not a subplot that has any bearing on the rest of the story, except for introducing some background to the character of Lisbeth (which does become relevant in the subsequent books/films). What it does do however is reinforce the theme that runs through the film, one made clear by the original Swedish title Men Who Hate Women, about pathological misogyny and sexual sadism.
With Gothed makeup and hair, a curt attitude, lethal toughness and casually alluded alternate sexual practices, Noomi Rapaces Lisbeth is one of the more original and provocative heroines to come our way in some time. Without a doubt, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be a considerably flatter story without Noomi Rapaces presence. She gives the film a dark troubled fire you can almost guarantee that she is going to be headhunted by Hollywood as soon as possible. (The one complaint might be the English language title The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which refers to the tattoo we briefly see taking up most of Noomi Rapaces back. For all the prominence the tattoo is given not only in the title but on the English language promotional poster for the film, it has no more significance than just being another colourful part of Lisbeths character). Michael Nyqvist plays with handsome charisma opposite her but it is without a doubt her film.
The film eventually arrives at one of the most surprisingly satisfying (and ultimately feelgood) endings that one has seen in a film. It takes its time but the story winds to its close gracefully bringing a number of the balls it has juggled in the air throughout to a warmly welcome conclusion. In the course of this, the film reveals itself as a serial killer thriller where the eventual unveiling of the killers identity holds some chillingly well written psychopathology.
The other two books were filmed back-to-back as The Girl Who Played With Fire (2009) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest (2009) with both Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace repeating their roles, although neither of these are as effective as this film or contain any genre material. A Hollywood remake was announced soon after the films US premiere, as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) directed by David Fincher and with Daniel Craig inheriting the Michael Nyqvist role and Rooney Mara stepping into Noomi Rapaces shoes.
Niels Arden Oplev next made his English-language debut with the revenge film Dead Man Down (2013), also starring Noomi Rapace, followed by the remake of Flatliners (2017).