The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo review

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first of a trilogy based on the Swedish novels of Stieg Larsson. As I have not read the novels, I cannot comment on their transition to the big-screen. This film, however, is excellent as a stand-alone and is very well executed in nearly every aspect. I very much look forward to the rest of the trilogy which has already been filmed and released.

The story, set in Sweden, follows Mikael (Michael Nyqvist), a journalist facing prison after being set-up, and Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace), a hacker on probation with a mysterious and troubled past. Their paths cross in the quest to solve a 15 year old cold-case disappearance. During which they encounter many twists, cover-ups, and close calls. The films structure and proceedings remind me of David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007), in that it is meticulously paced and focused more on the investigators, rather than the villain. So much so, that it is impossible for anyone unfamiliar with the novel to determine who the villain is prior to it being revealed. The twist/surprise is effective due to a lack of heavily foreshadowing rather than misdirection and deception. The audience discovers the villain simultaneously with the on-screen characters.

Originally (& rightfully) entitled Män som hatar kvinnor [Men Who Hate Women], there are some heinous actions depicted against women, especially Lisbeth. Including two (very) intense and disturbing rape scenes. Although they are not entirely gratuitous, they have a lasting, repulsive impact on the viewer. Credit goes to the director, and actors, for not pulling any punches and portraying the sadistic acts forcefully and realistically.

Pictured: Intensity

Swedish actress Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth is astonishing and stands-outs in a film full of strong performances. Played with an edge, Lisbeth is often teetering on the border of sanity and despondency. While her problematic past is only hinted at, her incertitude towards the law and men is obvious and understandable. The most striking feature of Lisbeth is her eyes, intensely full of enmity and dejection. Mikael on the other hand is the polar opposite of Lisbeth, full of sympathy and righteousness.

Mikael and Lisbeth share a complicated bond and their relationship is handled deftly. Mikael falls in love almost instantaneously, Lisbeth however is reluctant. Understandable given her previous history with men. Their romantic link is filled with subtleties and dispassion, avoiding most clichés and expectations.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, along with Let the Right One In, is another film coming out of Sweden to achieve world-wide acclaim in recent years. Due to their success, I expect a sudden rise in Swedish cinema releases to follow. If the quality of the films stays consistent, Sweden will emerge as a foreign cinematic powerhouse.


About sebastianhaff
I'm Steve. 24 year old recent college grad. My love of films (and sheer boredom) lead me to begin this blog. My taste in movies is eclectic, although I tend to lean toward foreign and non-mainstream cinema. Feel free to contact me at:

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