The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - movie reviewThe Swedes know how to cut to the chase. Forget the lyrical, suggestive English title, the original (Män som hatar kvinnor) translates to, Men Who Hate Women. And that’s the long and short of it all right. Journalist Stieg Larsson’s internationally successful Millennium trilogy certainly doesn’t shy away from the sexual and psychological abuse of women. Indeed his titular anti-heroine, the androgynous Lisbeth Salander seems to suffer the worst fate, from hints of an abusive childhood to a brutal rape by her state guardian. It’s no wonder then that the books, and the subsequent film franchise has sparked debate over the extent to which the virulent misogyny is mediated by Lisbeth’s vigilante style of justice.
Unfortunately Larsson is no longer around to bask in the success, the controversy or to complete what he conceived of as a 10-part series. The journalist turned novelist died of a heart attack before Men Who Hate Women was published, but perhaps left an alter ego behind in the form of the story’s leftwing journo Mikael Blomkvist. Michael Nyqvist assumes the role for director Niels Arden Oplev’s compelling adaptation, and he is reserved yet sympathetic as the disgraced investigative journalist wrongly convicted for crossing the wrong corporation.
On his own recognisance for a few months until he must report to prison, Blomkvist reluctantly accepts the desperate commission of an aged business tycoon (Sven-Bertil Taube) to investigate the disappearance of his beloved niece some 40 years ago. Meanwhile computer hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) - who had been called upon to perform a background check on Blomkvist - decides to keep tabs on her subject, and secretly, then actively assists in the case.
It’s at about this point that the film becomes a mish-mash of television crime dramas, albeit a stylish one. You name it, Murder She Wrote, Cold Case and Dexter by way of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (the one that deals with sordid sex crimes) all feel like easy reference points, with a bit of old-fashioned Agatha Christie mixed in for what is essentially a traditional whodunit. A rich and conniving family holed up in a remote township, with biblical clues and more than one skeleton in the closet makes for pretty standard fare, but it’s a testament to Nyqvist and Rapace’s strong performances that the audience cares enough to sit through this 2 ½ hour procedural.
Ultimately, however, the material is probably better suited for a mini-series, which is evidently already in the works. But then so are the Swedish adaptations of the remaining two books, as well as an American remake (with David Fincher rumoured to direct). It seems the world can’t get enough of Larsson’s particular brand of sex and violence, the extent of which becomes even more staggering when you learn his protagonists are based on Astrid Lindgren’s famous child characters Bill Bergson and Pippi Longstocking!
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo opens in cinemas this Thursday, March 25.
You can view The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie trailer here on TheVIne.
Join the conversation below