- on Friday, 09 July 2010 22:13
- by Frank Wilkins
With murder, mystery, revenge, Nazis, mistaken identity, familial dysfunction, and biblical scripture-based killings, what's not to like about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Swedish language film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's wildly popular 2008 novel? Throw in a tattoo gun used as a weapon and we're all set for a thrilling but brutal story that's as much an old-fashioned whodunit as it is a cutting-edge, modern tale of revenge.
Larsson, who died in 2004, left behind 3 unpublished novels, known as the "Millenium" trilogy, which vaulted the Swedish writer into the status of best selling author of 2009. The film adaptation went on to become Sweden's highest grossing film in history and the highest grossing in all of Europe in 2009. It's sure to get a big thumbs-up from American audiences that can appreciate a clever mix of classic noir themes and commercialized filmmaking techniques.
The tattooed girl of the title is 20-something computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a rough-hewn, leather-wearing biker chick, who's as wise-beyond-her-years as she is vulnerable and broken from a childhood of sexual abuse. She has a 20-pound chip on her shoulder and will undoubtedly stop at nothing to get what she wants. And what she wants is to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a young girl. We soon learn that Lisbeth has been hired by a private security outfit to help find the 16 year-old Harriet Vanger who went missing some 40 years ago from a family gathering on a private island owned and inhabited by the resourceful but devious Vanger family.
The film's Swedish title, Men Who Hate Women, might lend better insight into Lisbeth's internal motivations, but the American title certainly labels her physical attributes quite accurately. Lisbeth not only sports one of the sweetest tattoos in film history but also one of the biggest. The markings stretch all the way down from her neck, which is encircled by the dragon's head, to her thigh where the creature's inky tail eventually terminates... the dragon's wings spanning from shoulder to shoulder. No worthy purpose in pointing out this title change (both the book and film were renamed upon American release), other than to illustrate yet another instance of corporate America hoping to soften the blow of a controversial title for the sake of making a buck. But then again, perhaps they're right. American hypersensitivity usually supersedes artistic expression.
During her investigation, Lisbeth runs into, and eventually teams up with, disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Michale Nyqvist) who is also charged with trying to solve the mysterious circumstances of the girl's disappearance. Seems a dying Vanger uncle is clearing his closet before passing on to the next plane and hopes the investigative duo can expose the culprit... even if it means uncovering some deep, dark family secrets.
What follows is a twisty-turny series of good old-fashioned investigative work that will surely appeal to the Sherlock Holmes fans in the audience. But we're also asked to endure some brutally graphic depictions of rape and incest that some may find hard to watch. Rest assured though, when all is said and done, the mystery is solved to satisfaction.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has lots of moving parts and intersecting storylines that can easily become unwieldy in the hands of an unskilled director. But, working from a script from fellow Swedes, Rasmus Heisterberg and Nikolaj Acel, director Niels Arden Oplev not only manages to keep all the balls in the air at once, he's also able to inject it with an exciting verve and unique sense of style that plays nicely against the film's labyrinthine complexity. All business and no craft would make the film's 2½ hour runtime seem like an exercise in tedium. But as it is, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is smart and sexy, and as fun to watch, as it is difficult to swallow. It's one of the few films this season that's both entertaining and intellectually stimulating. It's sure to captivate adult audiences with a wide variety of tastes and preferences.
Available on Blu-ray - June 29, 2010
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Audio: Swedish: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 5.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Music Box’s release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sparkles on Blu-ray. The transfer is sharp, colorful, and detailed. With nary a single digital artifact, the compression of the source material is indeed crisp and strong. The locations are accurately rendered, but become a little soft in the lens at time to smooth out the lack of saturation. Still, the movie is full of detailed colors: most notably a metallic white, blue, green and a strong black.
While not a major studio, Music Box still presents the viewer with a choice on sound: the original Swedish language track (with optional English subtitles) or a dubbed English track. Both are in Dolby Digital 5.1, but neither track is, unfortunately, completely lossless. Full of ambient noise and a stylish soundtrack, it is unfortunate that the disc doesn’t have a better kick, but because Music Box is an independent company, I would not expect to see a future release of this film with better sound capabilities.
With no information on the author of the book or the director of the film, the special features are a little lacking. There are only three:
- Vanger Family Tree: an interactive map displaying the family tree on one page. White interesting, you get all this information in the movie so it becomes a bit redundant.
- Interview with Noomi Rapace (12:31): An interview, in English, with actress Rapace, who speaks fluently with very little accent. The interviewer asks her, at length, about playing Lisbeth, the preparation (which lasted seven months) as she transformed her body and the year and a half shooting the three films.
- The trailer for the film is included, plus trailers for Shall We Kiss?, Séraphine, Cloud 9, Northface, Mesrine, OSS117 Lost in Rio and, most importantly, a sneak peek at The Girl Who Played With Fire.