Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010)


Plot Summary: Swedish thriller based on Stieg Larsson's novel about a journalist and a young female hacker.

As a disclaimer to this review I’d like to outwardly admit that I don’t particularly like detective/crime mystery films (for the most part). As a consequence I’m obviously going to have enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo far less than someone who does; so feel free to add an extra mark onto my final verdict if you’re one of these people. Dragon Tattoo is a Swedish film which adapts the first in a series of bestsellers called ‘The Millennium Trilogy’. After the release in its native country last year it was box office smash and it’s now being released widely throughout Europe. The film itself is somewhat of a contemporary or ‘alternative’ take on the murder mystery genre due its depiction of sexual violence, the striking female lead and her reliance on computers and the internet. It’s a well made thriller which makes some interesting choices but overall feels like it’s missing something.

As mentioned, the main selling point of Dragon Tattoo is the two main characters who both band together (professionally and later, sexually) in order to solve a forty year-old murder case. Mikael (played by Michael Nyqvist) is a writer for a communist magazine, disgraced and heading to prison since losing a libel case against corrupt businessman. He’s not exactly Dick Van Dyke. It’s really Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace), though, who stands out here for several reasons. First of all, her goth/alternative look is extremely striking; piercings, tattoos and of course, primarily black clothing dominate. Her feminist attitude and resolve is demonstrated in a variety of different scenes throughout the film, combined with her troubled past and general mystique, make her a thoroughly compelling character. Both roles are very well written and acted and as a result it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that they make the film.

Dragon Tattoo is also well, if not particularly interestingly, shot from start to finish and does a good job of creating a dramatic and mysterious set-up for the murder case. The film is also rather uncompromising in its depiction and critique of the general male population. Not all men are portrayed as evil or perverted and it’s not quite a true ‘feminist film’ but as the original Swedish title, Men Who Hate Women, suggests the film-makers clearly have things to say about the male dominated society we all live in. This appears in the film in truly harsh and gritty scenes in which Lisbeth is assaulted in full view of the public by a group of drunk men at a train station, sexual assaulted by her probation officer and finally in the murderous exploits of the Vanger clan. Not that Lisbeth takes it lying down, she fights back at her male oppressors with full force; in one particularly hard to watch scene she even drugs, ties up and rapes a man with a dildo.

The violent direction taken by the film-makers is an interesting, if not exactly enjoyable, decision which adds some much needed dramatic weight and realism to events. Even with these unique elements present in the film, Dragon Tattoo still ends up feeling fairly formulaic. The identity of the killer and the whereabouts of the victim will be obvious to most keen-eyed viewers and nothing in particular really stands out and grabs the audience. Dragon Tattoo also has a rather long running time which some may find trying. The first hour of the film takes far too long establishing the characters and plot and there appears to be about four endings. The main ending itself also felt uncharacteristically upbeat and felt off with the rest of the film. However, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a well made film and is a fairly different take on the murder mystery film which fans of the genre are bound to enjoy.

Final Verdict: 7/10

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