GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO, 2010
Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber, Marika Lagercrantz, Lena Endre, Bjorn Granath
Swedish thriller based on Stieg Larsson's novel about a journalist and a young female hacker.
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The crime genre might be the hardest to do any justice to. Designed for pure entertainment as much as any sci-fi or horror film could be, it is also the easiest to make any sort of real story out of. Those two impulses are constantly at war with each other in most crime films, especially as so many directors are willing to let the mood and nature of their stories stand in for actual depth. But when a filmmaker can balance both of them you can get something of the greatness the genre often takes for granted. Something like "The Girl With The Dragoon Tattoo."
Niels Oplev's atmospheric, character driven adaptation of the first of Stieg Larsson's three crime novels featuring the unlikely detecting duo of middle-aged journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and punk hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is the clearest example of what a crime story should be doing. Delving through murk and corruption in order to come out on the other side with a clearer idea of what human beings are.
And the world of "Dragon Tattoo" is about as dark and corrupt as you could hope for. After a local industrialist (Sven-Bertil Taube) approaches Blomkvist to do what no one else has been able to do, find out what happened to his niece who has been missing for 40-years, Blomkvist quickly finds himself drawn into a world of Nazi-sympathizers and ritual murder.
But that's not really the point; the point is how Blomkvist goes about his quest and how it affects him. Or more specifically, how it affects them. Before hiring him, his benefactor has him checked out by talented, anti-social hacker Salander who finds herself drawn to Blomkvist, one of the few uncorrupted people she has met, and his task.
It's sounds just far-fetched enough to be a movie, which is the real tale of what Oplev has accomplished, considering how seamlessly and effortlessly it all flows. It takes nearly an hour of the "Dragon Tattoos" two and half hour running time for our two hero's to finally meet, but the length is nearly imperceptible.
Nor should Salander be as real as she comes off in description but in Oplev and Rapace's hands she's quite mesmerising. She's a girl who has been through almost every horrible thing a person could go through, much of it on screen. It's obvious right away why this was the most successful film in Europe in 2009.
And beautifully so, in a horrible sort of way. It almost feels like something this dark shouldn't be so artfully put together, but Niels Sejer's production design and Jens Fischers and Eric Kress's cinematography has created one of the most studied looking films of the last few years. It's almost too clean, something that reveals in dirt and grim the way "Dragon Tattoo" does should be dirty, it feels like.
But as qualms go, that's a small one and not worth mentioning, really. "Dragon Tattoo" is a success on nearly every level it attempts. Even the extended ending is not the problem it should be in other films as the "Dragon Tattoo" is from the beginning far more about it's hero's than it's villains which is a pleasant change. It's dark and dismal and beautiful and human and everything a crime film should be.