out of Five
Running time: 152
Brilliantly directed, beautifully shot and superbly written, this is a thoroughly gripping detective thriller with terrific performances from Nyqvist and Rapace – it's also easily one of the best films of the year.
What's it all about?
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is based on the bestselling novel by Stieg Larsson (the first in his Millennium trilogy – the next two films are due out in September and November) and stars Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist who's just lost a high profile libel case against a powerful businessman. With six months to kill before he has to serve his prison sentence, Blomkvist is hired by the wealthy Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) to investigate the disappearance of his 16-year-old great-niece Harriet, some four decades earlier.
When Blomkvist uncovers a mysterious list of initials and numbers he receives unexpected help from Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a punky, lesbian computer hacker sporting the titular dragon tattoo who, unbeknownst to him, has been shadowing his every move ever since Vanger's assistant hired her to investigate him. The two duly join forces and soon make progress on the case, which becomes increasingly disturbing with each new lead.
The original title translates as Men Who Hate Women, which applies to both the horrific details of the case and the equally disturbing nature of Lisbeth's damaged life, including her traumatic past (glimpsed in flashback) and her brutal treatment at the hands of her evil parole officer (Peter Andersson).
Nyqvist and Rapace are terrific as Blomkvist and Salander; their onscreen chemistry is spiky, intriguing and genuinely touching, whilst their unconventional relationship is every bit as fascinating as the central mystery. The film is also beautifully shot, with cinematographer Eric Kress making the most of the remote island landscapes.
The script is excellent and the detailed accumulation of leads, clues and revelations ensures that this is the most purely satisfying detective thriller in years. In addition, there's an enjoyable streak of dark humour in the film and Oplev orchestrates some terrific scenes, building tension steadily throughout and paying it off with a genuinely suspenseful climax.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a hugely enjoyable detective thriller of the sort that Hollywood just doesn't seem to be able to make anymore. As such it's unmissable and one of the best films of the year. Highly recommended.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (18)