The Swedish film industry is truly beginning to make waves; last year’s critical smash was Let the Right One In and this year they’ve gotten an early start with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Facing prison time for slander, discredited journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is hired by a reclusive industrialist for one last job: to solve a long, unresolved family disappearance. Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan; though her body was never found, her uncle is convinced it was murder. Aided by the mysterious and troubled computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), Mikael links Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders, unravelling a dark and appalling family history. Alone and not knowing who to trust, they must fight for their own survival and reveal the truth.
Though Lisbeth is a victim of brutal abuse, her strength is inspiring. She repeatedly reclaims the power from her oppressors, taking revenge and gaining her own form of justice. This is somewhat reminiscent of the rape-revenge films that emerged in the 1970’s. Her appearance works towards her desire to keep people at arm’s length, but it is also very representative of her personality. Rapace is casted perfectly in this role. She embodies the character, allowing audiences to cheer for and empathize with her even though they may not be able to identify with her.
The story, based on Stieg Larsson’s book of the same name, is intriguing. The film begins with a revealing and blunt introduction to Lisbeth as she is assaulted more than once but rises above it each time. Her abilities as a hacker are also showcased and undeniable. The murder mystery receives an equally gradual introduction, unveiling the bare facts and slowly submitting new, sometimes confusing, information. As the pieces of the puzzle come together, the layers of deception and horror are unbelievable.
Overall, the film can seem quite disturbing, but it is also brilliant on every level. The violence in each instance, present and past, is intense and brutal but is wholly matched by the dark genius of the film.
Special features on the blu-ray in the combo pack include: interviews with Rapace and producer Soren Staermose; the Vanger Family Tree; sneak peeks at the second chapter, The Girl who Played with Fire; and “Did you know?”