There's something to be said for movies that actually tell you a story rather than shove it down your throat. Movies with plots that unravel naturally, with characters who develop logically, and whose relationships flourish on their own as if the camera weren't there. That's exactly what The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo accomplishes in all the best ways. It's impossible to not be engrossed in the story despite its slow pace, and the characters are as relatable as friends you've known for decades. It's filmmaking at its finest on every level.
Dragon Tattoo is a grisly tale of rape and murder, following Stieg Larsson's first book in the Millennium trilogy and making no qualms about putting that brutality front and center. It makes you wonder how the story will translate to American screens in the planned remake. Mikael Blomvist (Michael Nyqvist), a disenfranchised reporter, is hired by a rich shut-in to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance of his niece. A hardened young hacker named Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) joins him on his case, looking for an escape from her heavily supervised and abusive life in the city.
Watching the pair dig through countless pages of old expense records and photographs sounds like it would be boring and tedious, but instead it's quite compelling. Maybe not "edge of your seat" compelling, but it will keep you interested and wondering just who it was who took the missing girl over 40 years ago. Punctuated by a few scenes of necessary action to further the ever spindling web of story, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for the most part is a thrilling story wrought with mystery and suspense.
I've always found it a little difficult to gauge acting in films in which the actors aren't speaking English, but Nyqvist and Rapace ooze with chemistry even through the film's bleak tone.T he partners share maybe one smile, but you could still feel their connection through the case as well as on a deeper level. The missing girl's family, all of them suspects, shine in the most sinister ways even with their limited screen time. It seems like a very big web to keep track of-- it even looks big on Mikael's wall of pinned-up photos--but director Niel Arden Oplev makes it easy to follow and as far from frustrating as you can get.
The film's one minor downfall is the amount of time it takes to get the two main characters in the same room together. Lisbeth's back story is important, but her initial interest in Mikael's case isn't explained and you're left wondering for too long why she's so willing to join in the investigation. Each of their stories is compelling in its own right, but when it's so obvious they're going to join forces it seems like a waste of time to keep them apart for so long when.
The cinematography is nothing short of pristine. Reminiscent of 2008's Swedish classic Let the Right One In, the film is shot in heavy contrast which maybe over-dramatizes scenes, but mostly works very well with the dark colors of the Scandinavian forest where our heroes spend so much time. Oplev isn't relying on tricks to make his film look better, just pure, old fashioned, cinematography.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo should be watched by anyone interested in crime, good filmmaking, or just great stories told very succinctly. It smells very much like Seven or Zodiac, which is fitting since David Fincher will be helming the American version. It is a brutal film to get through, but with great payoffs that you don't always have to wait for. If you're not lucky enough to see this in a theater, keep your eye on Cinema Blend's DVD section for any news regarding its release. It should not be missed.