Sunday, July 4, 2010

Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2010)

DirectorNiels Arden Oplev
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist

Meet Lisbeth. She’s a computer hacker with friends in the right places and no tolerance for the scum of the Earth rapists and murderers she hunts. She is quite a beautiful young woman, and intelligent to boot, but she does have a few trust issues after a long history of traumatic and abusive men – so take note of that. It would likely be something akin to walking into a lion’s den. This is a girl you want to tread carefully around. She already looks the part of the quiet one, with her sullen demeanor, but you really don’t want to piss her off. Because when you do…well, she doesn’t hold back.

In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, she plays a crucial role in the bringing down of a horrific chain of religiously driven ritualistic rape and murder circling beneath the surface of a prestigious Swedish family. This is a film that is long and detailed, with 2.5 hours full of nail-biting suspense, no-holds-barred violence and thrills that could topple mountains. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist has six months before he has to go to jail for slander against a high profile politician, and in that time he is determined to crack the 40-year-long case of a missing girl. He has the help of the aforementioned Lisbeth, and together they start to get to the bottom of things as well as getting closer together themselves.

This movie keeps you guessing all the way. The setting varies from the remote country wilderness where Mikael investigates to the dense, neon lit city where Lisbeth carries out her first deeds. Anyone who takes a revenge on their rapist that involves shoving a rocket shaped dildo up his ass and then making him watch the videotape she taped during the rape, before blackmailing him, and then carving the words “I am a sadistic pig and a rapist” on his chest with an amateur tattoo knife…is nobody I want to fuck with, thank you.

The rest of the story is a rocket ride through shades of Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, among others, although with a little bit more of an action bent here, rather than the gloomy noir and grimy horror tinges of those films. This is a film that attacks the viewer head on with conspiracies, sharp plot twists and new evidences every couple of minutes. It is a riveting and captivating mystery, adding in touches of personal drama and romance when necessary – just small touches, enough to add the Human Element to the story. This is a great film simply because it has a lot of really interesting things going on, making 2.5 hours feel more like one and a half. It doesn’t do much to break the mold or challenge our perception of mystery thriller movies, but it does deliver a synthesis of exactly why they are so great.

One of the best scenes is when Lisbeth comes into Mikael's room the first night they spend together. They don't really say a whole lot, but they have a quick round of sex before she leaves, saying nothing but "Good night," in this really peppy, adorable way like she was just leaving a table after a cup of coffee instead. And I also really like the climax of the film where Mikael finally finds out who the killer is. It results in his (the killer's) frenzied drive down the highway and inevitable crash, where he burns to death as Lisbeth watches, choosing to do nothing. The direction here is just really great. Every scene, even the ones that don't immediately stick out, are just so lively. They really jump out at you and just really pull you in, making every second of this long film count. The film makes use of a falling action afterwards as everything is resolved and the audience finally sees what really happened to the missing Harriet Vanger all this time.

And like every such film, the social relevance is here, as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tackles topics like mistreatment of women by authority figures, journalistic corruption and the ease with which sick, twisted criminals slip under the radar. It is a powerful and driving film that makes a statement as a movie as well as about social ailments. Lisbeth is a great character and Noomi Rapace does a wonderful job acting as her, with all her moodiness and coldness, with the touches of subtle beauty underneath.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is only the first movie in a line of them adapted from the hit book series by the famous-after-death author Stieg Larsson (RIP), and apparently there are still two more of them that will be released very soon here as well. If that’s the case, hell, I can’t wait. This is a very cool movie, and one of the best released recently, especially in the mystery thriller genre. Go check this out. It is worth your time no matter what genre of movies you like.