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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - (DVD) Review

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

NIELS Arden Oplev’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo arrives on DVD and Blu-ray off the back of some of the best reviews of the year so far, and it’s easy to see why.

Based on the first of a trilogy of international bestsellers by the late journalist Stieg Larsson, the film offers a hard-hitting murder-mystery that’s populated by two of the most memorable characters in recent memory.

The two in question – disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and tattooed and pierced computer jacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) – are a formidable double act whose presence does much to paper over what may have become a routine and, at times, unsavoury thriller.

Instead, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo becomes as much a first-rate character study as it is an intriguing missing persons thriller that combines elements of Wallander, Silence of the Lambs and Zodiac.

The plot finds discredited investigative reporter Blomkvist hired by an elderly tycoon, Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), to look into the 40-year-old disappearance of a favourite niece. As he does so, his activities draw the attention of no-nonsense computer hacker Salander, who becomes an unlikely ally in the ensuing battle against former Nazis with hideous agendas.

Oplev’s film takes its time to unfold over the course of two and a half hours, and doesn’t even bring its two protagonists together for the better part of an hour. But it’s never less than riveting, even if some of the darker sexual elements surrounding both the missing person story and Salander’s own past and present are difficult to watch.

In that regard, however, Oplev remains faithful to Larsson’s source text, refusing to flinch throughout Salander’s degradation and eventual rape by a sickly supervisor… or her subsequent revenge. Viewers may well look away.

Salander, though, is no shrinking violet or victim in waiting. She gives as good as she gets and is a compelling, unpredictable and occasionally volatile force of nature, whose presence considerably enlivens proceedings. Incredibly, Rapace was turned down when she first auditioned for the role, on account of looking too feminine – a disappointment that obviously fuelled the subsequent transformation, which is absolutely astonishing. Salander is one of the movie characters of the year.

But Nyqvist is every bit as impressive as Blomkvist, eschewing the poster boy looks of the novels, for something more everyman and discerning. He’s just as much a wounded animal as Salander, and driven in his own way.

The slow development of the trust that exists between these two investigators in fascinating to watch, and credibly portrayed.

Oplev, for his part, lends the film a deeply atmospheric vibe and makes good use of location. If the story itself isn’t perhaps the film’s strongest element, and may even be upsetting to some viewers, he still keeps viewers intrigued by the series of clues that are continually thrown up along the way, while giving his lead performers centre-stage.

A Hollywood remake is already in the works with the role of Salander one of the most sought after of the moment. But while the presence of David Fincher suggests a reason to be excited, it would still be remiss to simply wait for that to arrive. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a must-see experience in its original Swedish form, and already has two completed sequels on the way, which are a genuinely exciting prospects in their own right.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 152mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: July 19, 2010