It’s rare that a movie totally captures the essence of an international best-seller, particularly a grim, suspenseful thriller, but this Swedish screen adaptation of the first novel in Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” succeeds on all levels.
As the story begins, veteran Stockholm financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) has been found guilty of criminal libel in his attacks on a corporate tycoon and ordered to serve a six-month jail sentence. But before he’s sent to prison, Mikael is approached by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), the aristocratic patriarch of a prominent industrialist clan, to investigate what happened to his beloved teenage niece, Harriet, who mysteriously disappeared back in 1966 from a family gathering on remote Hedeby Island in Sweden’s frigid far north. And Vanger’s wary lawyer has hired a punk, pierced-and-tattooed 24 year-old hacker to spy on Mikael. That’s resourceful Lisbeth Salander (ferociously personified by Noomi Rapace), a sullen, ambisexual, tomboyish truth-seeker who is determined to wreak revenge on predatory misogynists who abuse their power. Working together as kindred spirits, Mikael and Lisbeth not only solve this 40 year-old ‘cold case’ but embark on an uneasy collaboration.
Writer Stieg Larsson died suddenly in 2004, he left behind three unpublished novels which have become a global sensation, elevating Larsson posthumously to the world’s second-best selling author behind “The Kite Runner’s” Khaled Hosseini. Next comes “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” followed by “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” Screenwriters Rasmus Heisterberg and Nikolaj Arcel and Danish director Niels Arden Oplev distill the essence of Larsson’s visually brutal, often disturbing, neo-Nazi whodunit concept, discarding details that would only clutter up the complex, twisting-and-turning narrative that was assembled from material shot for two 90-minute TV movies and now runs two-and-a-half hours – in Swedish with English subtitles.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is an intense, indelibly gripping 9. It’s already Europe’s top-grossing film of 2009, the most successful Scandinavian film ever, and Sony plans to remake it in English in 2011.