Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Sven-Bertil Taube
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Running Time: 152 mins
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor) is a Swedish film about a journalist who is helped by a young woman working as hacker as he attempts to uncover the mystery of a murder that happened over 40 years ago.
Many great mysteries are exciting and unpredictable, but The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has something more than that. While it’s an undoubtedly exciting film with an excellent mystery, it’s a film that gives a great insight into its character, both with relation to the case they’re working on and as people away from that main plot. Furthermore, with striking directing and two fantastic central performances, the film ends up as a thoroughly engrossing and eye-catching one from start to finish.
Let’s start on that note, because it’s what actually makes this film a thoroughly riveting watch, setting it somewhat apart from more typical mystery thrillers. The film centres on the characters of Mikael Blomkvist, played by Michael Nyqvist, and Lisbeth Salander, played by Noomi Rapace, and their unlikely partnership to solve a long-standing mystery.
But, rather than being a film that’s all about that mystery, we learn a whole lot about both Blomkvist and Salander, which makes them absolutely fascinating to watch throughout, all the while adding an extra few layers of intrigue to the film as a whole on top of the unpredictable mystery at the centre.
What’s more is that it’s not just simple background and character development, but a deep and insightful portrayal of both of the characters’ innermost demons and struggles, with particular focus put onto Lisbeth Salander and the frustrating situation she has been put in through very little fault of her own, yet still with enough darkness and unpredictability to make the character thoroughly intriguing.
Of course, the mystery itself is also a massively exciting element of the film, and with a strong screenplay throughout that utilises the original novel’s strong and unpredictable story structure to keep you guessing right the way through, even when you think all is settled, makes The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as entertaining a thriller as it is riveting a drama.
However, what again sets the film apart from more typical mysteries is its ability to go to some incredibly dark places out of seemingly nowhere. While the first act works as a patient and tense build-up to more drama and thrills later on, the second act sees the film suddenly turn unrelentingly dark, with a couple of brutal and gritty sequences that had me turning away from the screen.
With that said, however, those moments are a vital part of the film that serve to deepen the trauma that we’ve seen both Salander and Blomkvist experience over the years, and offer a level of dramatic power and intensity that far outstrips the rest of the film.
And that’s where one of my issues with the movie comes in. While it has those stunning moments of terrifying darkness, the rest of it pales a little in comparison. Its central portion is by far its strongest suit, and while the first act has good tension, it doesn’t quite stand up to that middle part of the film in hindsight. Furthermore, the final act is somewhat of an underwhelming conclusion to the film, because despite the unexpected nature of that climax, it just felt a little too simple and easy for me, particularly after having witnessed just how far this film is able to go.
As a result, the movie doesn’t always hold the intensity of excitement or drama that I was looking for, and although two and a half hours of sheer bleakness would have been impossible for anyone to stomach, I would have liked to see a little more gravitas at times to really bring the story and characters into perspective.
Overall, then, I was thoroughly engrossed by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. A well-written and well-directed mystery thriller that’s exciting and massively intriguing throughout, complete with brilliant character depth that offers so much to learn alongside the central mystery plot, it’s a great watch throughout, although it doesn’t always manage to live up to its clear potential as something a whole lot darker and more affecting, which is why I’m giving it a 7.7.