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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – DVD Review
It took a few years, but it looks like the book that was a hit in Sweden has become a worldwide sensation. For memory, The girl with the dragon tattoo has no wizards, vampires or lycanthropes. What he does have is the most compelling character in detective literature in quite a while. Her name is Lisbeth Salander. She’s the titular heroine of this tightly plotted and sometimes violent thriller in what’s the first in a trilogy of mysteries by Stieg Larsson.
The mystery opens with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) found guilty in a libel suit against Swedish industrial tycoon Hans-Erik Wennerström. After the verdict – and to his surprise – Mikael is courted by the wealthy patriarch Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl. The girl was Vanger’s niece, Harriet, and she’s been missing for over forty years. Mikael, disgraced and jobless, takes charge of the case, which causes him to move to the small island where the disappearance occurred. Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace), the investigator in charge of checking Mikael’s background on behalf of the Vanger family, traces his movements. Lisbeth is a polarizing character; her aloof demeanor and gothic-inspired attire render her invisible to those who dare look in her general direction. Twenty-four and underdeveloped in areas men love to ogle, Lisbeth is a hopeless case of emotions. Working alone on the case, Mikael is good. But when Lisbeth offers her help, the affair takes a dramatic turn. At his request, the two work together, going through old photographs and documents. Suspicious of others, Lisbeth finds herself trusting Mikael, but soon that trust is tested as they close in on a possible serial killer.
Watching the film at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, to read the novel afterwards, the editorial team of Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg are to be commended for condensing Larsson’s 590-page work (if you go through the US hardcover version) in a masterpiece of investigative mystery. A maze of names, faces and theories, Dragon TattooThe narration moves back and forth across the Swedish landscape. Commissioned by director Niels Arden Oplev, the film is procedurally heavy, and he measures every scene in order to let the viewer examine the situation with Mikael and Lisbeth.
At 150 minutes, it never seems too long. If Arcel and Heisterberg hadn’t taken any liberties with Larrson’s novel, the film could have been a six-hour miniseries. Subplots are omitted, as is the novel’s rather lengthy epilogue once the mystery is resolved, and much of the confusion that arises from reading the Vanger family tree is simplified for viewers. What remains is a gripping mystery about ritual killings while examining the sexual violation of women. (Before changing name The girl with the dragon tattoo has been called men who hate women.) The scenes involving Lisbeth and her state-appointed guardian will make you cringe, but the payoff will leave you jubilant. It doesn’t make the movie any less easy to watch, but it does help deal with a character like Lisbeth, whose past discretions are tied to ones that take advantage of women.
When the story goes into “detective mode” Dragon Tattoo becomes a captivating film. With each illegal photograph or hack, the evidence mounts and we sit excitedly, as if reading a page-turner. Supporting the evidence is Oplev’s photograph of the Swedish island that holds the secrets of a mystery that has been colder than the evocative landscape it projects. The spellbinding pair of Nyqvist and Rapace are undeterred; their characters form a bond built on mutual respect without forcing the outcome. And the respect they glean from each other is vitally important once the dynamic investigative duo are targeted for murder.
Steig Larsson’s cinematic interpretation of the international bestseller is not only one of the best investigative pike procedurals to come, it’s one of the best films of 2010. The girl with the dragon tattoo even captivated the likes of producer mogul Scott Rudin (There is no country for old people), who isolated himself for a week to devour the novel. Rudin is currently developing a Hollywood adaptation with David Fincher, a director who is no stranger to thrillers (Seven, Zodiac). If it is the first of a trilogy, the film does not end in cliffhanger. The girl with the dragon tattoo sets the tone to expect in the second and third entries as well as the quality of the characters, which is the life jacket of any great mystery.
The girl with the dragon tattoo is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and the sound is Dolby Digital. The language is Swedish with English subtitles, or you can listen to an English dubbed version. Unfortunately, the copy I received is a watermark filter disc, so an accurate write down of the visual and audio quality of the disc cannot be accomplished. If I get a street copy of the release, I’ll include an A/V quality upgrade.
This screeener disc didn’t come with bonus material, but the final version is expected to include interviews with Noomi Rapace and director Niels Arden Oplev, and a featurette called “The Vanger Family Tree.”
Looking at The girl with the dragon tattoo at SXSW, the movie quickly skyrocketed to the top of my list of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Seeing it again on DVD only reinforced its greatness. Superbly acted and with an intricate plot, the film has a gripping tone that casts a large shadow over the unfolding mystery. Forget him Harry Potter and Dusk nonsense and watch the screen presence of Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth, a heroine who doesn’t use magic wands or glitter sticks to put you in a trance.
Music Box Films Home Entertainment Presents The girl with the dragon tattoo. Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev. With: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube. Written by: Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg, based on the novel by Steig Larrson. Duration: 152 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: July 6, 2010.
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