The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009) – Niels Arden Oplev

Back in 2009 it seemed everyone was reading and talking about the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. I read each one voraciously, absorbing each and every detail and loving the dark, thrilling world he created, and the fantastic character of Lisbeth Salander, a brave and powerful heroine with a sense of justice and her own set of ethics.

He also introduced us to the journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, and his news journal, Millennium. Before David Fincher deliverd his own, solid english language version of the story, the entire trilogy was filmed in its original Swedish. Starring Noomi Rapace as the iconic Lisbeth, and Michael Nyqvist as Blomkvist, the fist film in the trilogy delivers a dark and thrilling story that explores the horrific nature of man, and the hunt for justice.

Blomkvist finds himself awaiting a three month prison sentence after he loses a libel court case, but before he serves, he’s been asked to investigate a decades old disappearance, and possibly murder. On a remote, snow-covered island, Blomkvist digs into the secrets of the Vanger family as he kicks over stones, and explores the past through all the records he can get his hands on.

The story intercuts with Lisbeth’s as we learn about who she is, a hint of her brutal past which shaped her, and how she deals with those who wrong her. She’s also a brilliant hacker that has done some research on Blomkvist, and finds what he is currently working on, fascinating.

Pairing the two together, a study in opposites, as they explore the Vanger mystery and connect the dots is inspired, and the film, like the original novel itself, doesn’t pull its punches, laying out the darkness and evil that people commit against one another.

Oplev delivers a crisp, fast-paced thriller that rockets along, remaining incredibly faithful to the novel, and demands the viewer’s attention. This is a movie that you have to pay attention to, connecthing the dots and tying the threads alongside Lisbeth and Blomkvist, both of whom are brought to believable life by Rapace and Nyqvist, both of whom would return for the sequels, all of which would serve as a launching point for careers in english speaking films.

I love how the story plays out, how the reveals work, and the shocking truth which is truly horrific. Like I said the film doesn’t flinch back from the novel’s subject matter, and while some of it makes for an uneasy watch, seeing how the characters deal with these things feels real.

At this point the book and film series are tied inseparably together in my mind, and while Fincher’s version is solid, this is the one to watch, Rapace is Lisbeth, completely inhabiting the character. I’m looking forward to revisiting the other two films in the series in the near future.

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