Friday, May 7, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009)

High-tech intrigue and old fashion sleuthing repeatedly class with one another in the extremely Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (a.k.a. "Men Who Hate Women"), a classic murder mystery that forces you to constantly pay attention to what is transpiring on screen. Now that right there would normally be a turn off, as I despise it when I'm forced to be alert at all times while watching a movie. (I prefer to have a large chunk of my mind elsewhere in order that I may think about other things, you know, like, the contents of my sock drawer or a giant cup of decaffeinated green tea.) Yet, director Niels Arden Oplev, working from the international bestseller by Stieg Larsson, keeps the principal players involved in the film's expansive investigation in such a constant state of motion, that we don't have much time to over-scrutinize the sheer volume of plot that is being hurled at us. Also limiting the number of characters to basically two people helped keep things from getting too confusing. Oh, sure, there's the kindly old man (Sven-Bertil Taube) and a sadist/lawyer/rapist (Peter Andersson), but for the most part these two are either helping or stymieing the two leads (sadistic lawyers who rape sure do love to stymie).

A weirdly dynamic pairing if I ever saw one, an investigative journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Niqvist) and a surly computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) team up to solve the disappearance of a young woman named Harriet who went missing in the 1966. While that sounds pretty straightforward, what they end up uncovering is anything but. Recently convicted of libel and about to serve a light prison sentence, the solemn-faced (he's Swedish, give him a break) Blomkvist accepts an offer to investigate Harriets's disappearance in a sleepy town north of, oh, let's say, Stockholm.

Working out of a modest cabin on the property of his new employer, the journalist sets up a sort of mini-command centre (complete with modern day electronics and dozens of dusty boxes full of evidence). Unbeknownst to him, Lisbeth has been secretly keeping tabs on his investigation from afar. Of course, Lisbeth would be able to assist Blomkvist more effectively if she didn't have to deal with her scumbag "guardian" (a kind of hacker supervisor) and drunken subway thugs (laptop ruining miscreants). However, after these hindrances have been removed (the former gets a permanent reminder of his evil ways on his stomach), Lisbeth decides to help Blomkvist in a more hands on manner.

Alluded to in my opening line, the film's strongest non-black hair cascading over one eye, non-spiky collar element was the way The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo mixed modern technology with classic investigatory techniques. It's true, I normally can't stand it when computers, mobile phones and other such gizmos are utilized to the extent they're used here. But, like I said, I thought the blending of the old with the new was highly original. One minute they're setting up a web-cam, the next they're hitting the books at the local reference library. (The effect used to bring a forty year-old photography to life was eerie in an Esper kind of way.)

Reminding me of combination of Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita and Kate Moennig from The L Word, with a hint of Face/Off era Gina Gershon for good measure, Noomi Rapace gives an angry performance tinged with a quiet brand of dignity. While that may sound like an oxymoron, the dark-haired beauty seemed to channel her rage internally. It comes to the surface when provoked, but for the most part it's kept at a bubbly simmer.

Playing a character with some obvious issues, Noomi, while she does stand out appearance-wise, doesn't do the typical moping Goth routine. While the majority of movie characters who have chosen Goth (or in this case, Cyberpunk) as their outward expression seem to look like they're wearing a costume, the style Noomi's Lisbeth sports had the everyday practicality I look for in a Goth protagonist.

You see, to survive as a Goth in a hectic world full of Haggar pants & slacks and puke green Crocs, your clothes must be able to withstand the harshness of the urban environment. Which means pointy high-heel boots that sport a multitude of buckles are fine when lounging cross-legged at your favourite topless disco, but not when you need to chase after a speeding SUV while swinging a golf club. In that case, you'll probably need a pair of combat boots.

I'm not quite sure if I'm getting my point across or not, but what I'm trying say is that I appreciated the attention to detail when it came to Lisbeth's captivating look in this movie. Take it away, and what you're left with is a pretty good murder mystery with a healthy dose of twists and turns. In other words, bring on The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. My obtuse mind is definitely ready for them.

video uploaded by RialtoDistribution


  1. Your reviews are fun to read. I relly enjoy the way you write.

  2. I really--REALLY--love the novel that's the source material for this movie, but I found myself questioning how it could be translated into a film. It's one of those ripping yarns that has some kind of vital detail on every page (and baby, there are a LOT of pages), and I wasn't sure if the resulting film would be a mind-boggling mess. I'm so pleased to hear that the film is probably as captivating as the book! I'm very excited to check this out.

    Also, Noomi Rapace is soooo fantastic-looking in this that I'm positively tongue-tied. *sigh*

  3. I have been wanting to see this. I also tend to like ignoring movies while I watch them. I need a director with a good sense of "corner of the eye while looking at Tumblr."

  4. Tenebrous Kate: I haven't read the novel... but I have given it as a gift on several occasions. So, yeah, I'm quite of aware of its thickness.

    Tell me about it. Noomi's studded collar is to die for.

    Darius Whiteplume: Speaking of Tumblr, you seem to like action figures and Lady Gaga more than anyone on the planet at the moment. :D

  5. I'm trying to become king of the dip shits ;-)