The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish name: Män som hatar kvinnor or Men Who Hate Women) is a fantastic adaptation of the first book of the best-selling “Millennium Trilogy” by late Swedish author Stieg Larsson (see my book review here).
The film has a classic mystery suspense thriller plot. It tells the story of a wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger, who is convinced that someone in his dysfunctional family killed his beloved niece more than 40 years ago. In a final effort to solve the mystery, he hires Mikael Blomkvist, a recently disgraced journalist facing prison time for libel. Running parallel to this storyline is the tale of the dangerous and vulnerable security specialist Lisbeth Salander, the titular character.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the type of film that will make you like the book more. When I read the book, I wondered how the heck they would be able to fit the extremely long and complex novel into a single film. But somehow, the screenplay by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg managed to take the best of the book and squeeze it into the 152-minute running time. All of the essential elements are there, including the key characters, almost all of the investigative events, and the majority of the subplots. A few relationships and subplots may have missed the cut, but I think making things a little simpler actually helps the film.
One of my primary complaints with the novel was the amount of exposition — there were so many biographies and backstories that I felt it sagged the plot and the pace. But the film version got around most of these problems without compromising the intelligent and complex storyline. Sometimes a short scene or conversation, or even just a look, replaced pages and pages of exposition from the book. A fantastic adaptation.
What really sets The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo apart from your average thriller is the main characters. Of course, everyone talks about Salander, one of the most intriguing characters to be portrayed on screen in recent years, played perfectly by Noomi Rapace. But I also think Blomkvist, played by veteran actor Michael Nyqvist, is a highly interesting character. All the minor characters are well cast and well played too. A high quality production whichever way I look at it.
A great start to the Millennium Trilogy. I can’t wait to see the next two films.
4.5 stars out of 5