THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace,
Lena Endre, and Sven-Bertil
Runtime: 152 minutes
Distributor: Music Box Films
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Executive Producer: None
Producer: Sören Stærmose
Writer: Rasmus Heisterberg and Nikolaj
Address Comments To:William Schopf, Principal
Music Box Films
942 W. Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60607
Phone: (312) 492-9364
In the story, a rich elderly man named Henrik Vanger from a rich family with numerous business interests hires Mikael, a liberal journalist falsely sentenced for libel, to investigate the disappearance 40 years ago of the man’s beloved niece, Harriet. Harriet used to do framed nature displays for Henrik on his birthday, and he’s been getting them from her killer every year since she disappeared.
Henrik tells Mikael that the Vanger clan is full of people who would stop at nothing to protect their own interests. He believes a powerful family member may have killed Harriet, perhaps one of his two brothers who had links to the Nazi Party. Only one of the brothers and his son is still living, but the other brother died long after Harriet disappeared.
Henrik has a guesthouse on the island where the family’s large estate is located. Mikael moves into the guesthouse to conduct his investigation. One of the first things Mikael learns is that Harriet became more religious before she disappeared and has marked some passages in her Bible.
Eventually, Mikael gets help from a troubled, tattooed computer hacker named Lisbeth, who has troubles of her own with her new parole officer, a sadomasochistic bureaucrat who takes control of all her bank accounts. Lisbeth played a role in checking Mikael out for Henrik and has secretly hacked onto Mikael’s computer so she can follow his movements. After turning the tables on her evil new parole officer, she joins Mikael in his investigation. Together, they discover that the cryptic notes Harriet left behind in her Bible just before she disappeared point to a series of brutal murders by a serial killer traveling the countryside. As they follow the killer’s trail, viewers learn more secrets about the Vanger family, Lisbeth and Harriet, the missing Vanger girl.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is an engrossing thriller based on the first book in the Millennium Trilogy by the late leftist journalist Stieg Larsson, who died suddenly at 50 in 2004. The background of the two lead characters, Mikael and Lisbeth, are just as important as the mystery they are trying to solve.
Regrettably, the movie shows Lisbeth’s new parole officer extorting a sexual favor from her and later raping her. Lisbeth turns the tables on him in the second scene by videotaping his abuse and threatening to go to the police if he doesn’t release her bank accounts. Later, the movie shows Lisbeth getting out of bed with another woman and, then, beginning a sexual affair with Mikael. Apparently, in the books, Mikael, who is divorced, is something of a ladies man.
The violence in the movie is minimal in quantity, but extreme in quality. Thus, there is the sadomasochistic rape scene by the parole office, some old crime photos of the serial killer’s victims, and the final violent confrontation with the killer.
It becomes clear, however, that Henrik, the man who hires Mikael, really cares about his missing niece. In the end, Mikael is able to find out what happened to Harriet and the scene where Henrik learns about her fate is very touch and uplifting.
Eventually, the movie offers an answer as to why Lisbeth has become a ward of the state. It shows that, when she was a child, Lisbeth killed her drunken father or stepfather, apparently after he crippled her mother, who’s still mentally damaged by the incident.
Two more Swedish movies will be coming out in this series of books about the crime-fighting duo of Mikael and Lisbeth. They have already been shown on Swedish television. And, the late author, Larsson, reportedly has left an unfinished fourth book on his computer, and notes for a fifth and sixth novel. According to Wikipedia, Larsson began his career as an activist for the Communist Workers League in Sweden, now the Socialist Party. Later, he became the editor of a Trotskyite journal. Leo Trotsky was one of the original Communist leaders who founded the Soviet Union in 1917, which also included Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. In 1940, an agent sent by Joseph Stalin murdered Trotsky in Mexico, where Trotsky was finally exiled. There is not much politics in this movie, however, which is mainly about the abuse of power.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is an engrossing thriller but there are two disturbing scenes involving the sadomasochistic bureaucrat. Also, although in one scene Lisbeth has slept with a woman, she begins a torrid affair with Mikael. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO also contains much foul language and depictions of extreme violence. Most of those are brief, especially some old crime photos of the serial killer’s victims.