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The girl who kicks butt!
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (DVD)
Advantages: Fantastic story, great performances
Disadvantages: None, unless you hate subtitles
The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo is based on the first book in Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy and is easily the best thriller that I have seen in a long time. Unfortunately, it is in Swedish and so will probably not receive the exposure that it really deserves. I would go as far as to say that, if you never watch another subtitled film, you should watch this one. It is two and a half hours long, which is a good hour than I usually have patience for in a film, and yet I was glued to the cinema screen all the way through. Everything about it is riveting, from the story, to the acting and the scenery. I have not read the book (although it's now in my to read pile) and so cannot comment on the book to film translation. However, I understand that there are some differences, mainly in the characters, but that the story is basically correct. I just hope and pray that Hollywood, if they do re-make, don't dumb it down as they invariably seem to.
Although Michael Nyqvist is at the top of the billing as Mikael Blomkvist, it is Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander who steals the show for me. Lisbeth is a complicated character. She dyes her hair black, wears black lipstick and eye-liner and is covered in tattoos - most notably a dragon one on her back. She is rude and beligerent, but we soon find out she has very good reason because of a shocking childhood. Her latest 'guardian', who is presumably some kind of probation officer, forces her to give him sexual favours in return for her own money. Noomi Rapace plays her just right, as a combination of obnoxious, difficult, vulnerable, intelligent and sometimes quite funny. It is a fine piece of acting, one of the best I've seen from a woman in a long, long time. Lisbeth Salander is exactly what a heroine should be. The performance is touching and feisty and I really cannot wait until the next film comes out to see what else she can do. This is absolutely brilliant.
Michael Nyqvist is also excellent as Blomkvist. He is a sad and sorry man at the beginning of the film - a middle-aged journalist with an excellent reputation until he is sued for libel. His confidence begins to return to him during his work for Henrik Vanger and his eventual working relationship with Lisbeth, although not easy, really helps to bring him to life. Nyqvist is not a particularly good looking man, but he really left an impression on me - he turns Blomkvist into a man of many layers and the performance is so natural and convincing that it was a pleasure to watch. He is particularly good during the first days of his time with Lisbeth. He really doesn't know what to make of her, no-one does, but the way that he handles her is spot on and very entertaining. It is Noomi Rapace that really helps to make this film stunning, but Nyqvist certainly comes a close second and again, I cannot wait to see what he brings to the second film in the series.
Thrillers and horrors (of which this is a combination) are often short on characterisation, simply because the story takes precedence - as it has to when crammed into an hour and a half. Perhaps because this film is much longer, there is time to develop the characters while still keeping the story strong and full of content. The story certainly is a very strong one. It is hard to make a murder investigation original these days, so many story lines have already been done to death, and this one certainly does have a few aspects that have been done before. Nevertheless, the combination of the characters and the story together make it fascinating and the fact that the suspects are all members of the same family living on an island with limited access is an added bonus. Some aspects of the investigation, dealt with by Lisbeth, are a little hard to follow because they are so technical, but it really wasn't necessary to understand anything but the basic idea.
The Swedish are known for their open attitude towards sex, so it isn't surprising that there is quite a lot of sex in the film. What wasn't quite so expected was the violence of the sex. There is a particularly nasty scene where Salander is raped by her 'guardian'. I won't go into details, but it is very harrowing viewing, mainly due to Rapace's acting. There is also a great deal of violence and shocking images. The images are perhaps the most disturbing, even though they are generally just photographs, because they show a range of dead bodies with horrendous injuries. There are also scenes where people are hit, shot at, stabbed and strangled. This is most definitely not a film for the faint-hearted and the classification of 18 is absolutely right. If you're going to the cinema for a first date, don't choose this film!
As a thriller, the cinematography perhaps isn't the most noticeable aspect of the film. Nevertheless, it does have its moments and director Niels Arden Oplev should be proud of having put together a film with great characters, story and visuals. Set on a Swedish island that is only attached to the mainland by a causeway, there are some stunning scenes, particularly in the snow, and the wonderful Swedish architecture also plays an important part. I also thought that the flashbacks were well done. There are several that take us back to Blomkvist's childhood, when Harriet Vanger actually babysat for him, and a couple that show us Salander's childhood experiences, which are hugely helpful in explaining her character. Blomkvist's flashbacks are visually particularly well done because they are so vague and filmy - exactly as you can imagine childhood memories to be.
The subtitles are excellent, which is just as well when so much of the film rests on what is being said rather than the action. That really shouldn't put people off though - it is absolutely worth putting up with the subtitles even if you usually avoid them like the plague.
This is a truly superb film and one which made me go straight out and buy the book. I'm glad, for once, that I saw the film before reading the book - not knowing what happens at the end really is a treat and is most certainly worth waiting for. Sadly, the author of the book, Stieg Larsson died unexpectedly a few years ago and never got the chance to see how successful his trilogy was going to become - unfortunately this also means that he won't be able to write any more fabulous stories. I can't claim that the film is flawless, because there are a few 'coincidences' that are pushing the boundaries of believabilty. Nevertheless it is one of the best films I have seen for a long time, one that I strongly recommend you make the effort to see.
The DVD has not yet been released - the film has only been in British cinemas since March 12. This is therefore a film only review.
Running time: 152 minutes
Summary: A brilliant thriller