on April 18, 2010
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first in the trilogy of crime novels written by Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson. Larsson wrote them during his spare time, as a form of amusement. However, the novels were not published until after Larsson's untimely death in Nov 2004. The author never had the opportunity to enjoy the critical and the commercial success his books eventually earned. In 2008 Larssen became the second best selling author on the planet.
Now, on to the story:
Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist, convicted, unjustly he believes, of libel against a powerful industrialist. As Blomkvist awaits the commencement of his sentence, he is hired by a scion of a wealthy family to investigate the disappearance of the man's bellowed niece 40 years earlier. Everyone, initially including Blomkvist, believes the case is hopeless. Unexpectedly though, help comes in form of "the girl with the dragon tattoo", Lisbeth Salander. The mysterious woman clearly has a severe past: despite being 24 years old, her person and finances are being managed by a court appointed guardian. She does however, have a brilliant mind and, as we are about to learn, a powerful will... She quickly becomes the driving force of the investigation. We watch transfixed, as the past reaches into the presence, and touches the lives of Blomkvist, Salander, her guardian, the industrialist and the wealthy scion.
The story, as written by Larsson, is extremely brutal (consider that the original, and the very apt, Swedish title is "Men Who Hate Women"). However, I am inclined to believe the violence serves as another character in the story and as such is necessary. I am therefore glad that the filmmakers did not seek to tamper it, thus neutering the punch the story delivers. Though this Swedish adaptation is scripted and directed to the highest standard, the focus must be on the performance of the actress Noomi Rapace. Her portrayal of Lisbeth is shockingly faithful to the text and the actress manages to take over the film with her very appearance.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of the best adaptations I have seen, ever. I encourage you not to miss it; though do see it with friends, as you will afterwards feel strongly compelled to discuss the various explosive plot twists. I hope Hollywood never touches this gem. I am anxiously waiting for the next two installments to hit US screens.
PS: Keep in mind, this film is NOT for the underaged.
on March 27, 2010
A terrific movie that develops a complex story in a fast-paced way. The screenwriter has done an excellent job at shaving away any excess in the book (which I liked very much) and really focused on the action without losing anything. Actors are wonderful, totally believable and unknown to this American - which goes a long way to making them inhabit their roles so completely. Swedish countryside is almost another character and the audience also gets a travelogue from seeing these great moody swaths of land, snow and island woods.
The movie is enjoyable whether or not you've read the book and is one of the rare ones that improves upon the book. [THE GODFATHER is the only other one that comes to mind.]
on March 21, 2010
The best screen adaptation from a book in years. The director has honored this well writtten work by following the book almost perfectly without omitting or sacrificing parts of the story. Lisbeth Sanders is perfectly cast. Rapace is Lisbeth. She creates a cult of somewhat envious admiring viewers wanting to become like Lisbeth. She is a fiery hellcat with an appealing naivete. This has viewers cheering for her to be avenged. Mikael too is equally well cast. Using orthodox methods, he step-by step partners with Lisbeth to peal back the layers of the mystery. Lisbeth stays always a step ahead of Mikael in her discoveries. The less well developed character Erika plays a lesser role. However, it is obvious there is bond if not a deeper relationship between Erika and Mikael. This relationship is given little emphasis in the directors efforts to focus on the real plot. Fast moving,well filmed and worth seeing.
Over 2.5 million people in Scandinavia have seen this film, making it the first film in Scandinavian history ever to break the $100 million mark for European ticket sales, and US fans of Stieg Larsson's bestseller of the same name may propel the film to similar records here. The R-rated film tells the story of Mikael Blomqvist, a disgraced journalist for Sweden's Millenium magazine who accepts an invitation from an elderly businessman to investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet, thirty-seven years ago. No trace of her has ever turned up, and the old man fears that a member of his family may have murdered her. While Blomquist is gathering information and storing it on his computer, he realizes that someone is hacking into his files. That person is Lizbeth Salander, a disturbed young woman living under the guardianship of the state, having spent time in a mental institution. Working together, they discover information about the Vanger family's Nazi connections and their association with extreme religious groups.
Danish director Niels Arden Oplev's dark and atmospheric cinematography establishes an ice-cold mood from the outset, with the action taking place in winter on an isolated island where the sun never seems to shine. Outdoor scenes are mostly black, white, and gray; interior scenes are full of clutter and of dark wood of almost claustrophobic heaviness. Michael Nyqvist (as Mikael Blomqvist) conveys the sense of loss, even betrayal, that his character feels after losing a libel case in a miscarriage of justice, and his vulnerability makes him the perfect foil for Noomi Rapace (as Lizbeth Salander). Rapace conveys not only the toughness and emotional dissociation resulting from abuse Lizbeth has faced, but also, in two memorable scenes, the feeling that behind the seemingly ironclad façade, there beats a real heart. Her role in the film is bigger than it is in the novel, and when she is on screen, it is impossible to look at anyone else. Nyqvist seems to recognize this, conveying Blomqvist's support for her through body language, gesture, and facial expressions, and remaining more in the background. The supporting actors, though their parts are far less developed, are equally committed to the film as a whole.
Brilliant pacing keeps the action and its shocks continuing throughout the film, and not a single "dead spot" appears, an extraordinary feat for a film that is more than two-and-a-half hours long and depends upon subtitles for dialogue. Even people familiar with the book will be jolted by the sudden visual shocks as they hit. Horrifying scenes of physical and sexual violence often make the film very difficult to watch, the sounds of the violence making the visual effects even stronger. There are some scenes of nudity.
Every aspect of this film is integrated into the whole, however, and it is difficult to imagine any adult fan of the book being disappointed in this production. The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the remaining two books in the trilogy, have already been filmed and released to huge audiences in Europe, and both of these films are projected for release in the US (with subtitles) in the fall of 2010. Mary Whipple
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage)
I'm a fervent and early fan of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy. I would have flown to another city to watch this film if I had to. Luckily, I live in one of the country's best cities for art house cinema: Dallas. Yes, contrary to the expected stereotypes I always have to bat down when I tell out-of-town friends this fact: Dallas has a tremendous art house cinema culture. And, as testament to that, we got "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" very early. What a thrill for us.
I am not going to claim that the movie is better than the book. What makes the books so compelling are the monster-deep dives Larsson takes into varied areas like investigative journalism, corruption, hacking, mafia, governmental affairs, mafia-government connections, intelligence agencies, detectives..and a host of others. What makes the first book spin is its dual axes of investigative journalism and hacking, personified respectively by Larsson's two protagonists, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. In the movie, something's gotta give: there's just no earthly way director Niels Arden Oplev is going to be able to fit all of Larsson's work into a film of slightly less than three hours.
So what Oplev does is strip the story down to its core: the hunt for Harriet Vanger. It's this case that serendipitously brings Blomkvist and Salander together. In the process of the focus, we lose some of the flavor that is the hallmark of the book, most notably much of the investigative journalism as practiced inside the walls of Millennium magazine. Millennium's editor, Erika Berger, is but a footnote in the movie but a big part of the book. Likewise, little attention is given to the so-called "Wennerström Affair," the personal and professional downfall that befalls Mikael at the book's outset. Indeed, the first third of the book focuses mainly on these two elements of the tale.
Similarly, we lose out on some other aspects of Mikael's character. Mainly, his babe-magnetism. In the movie, he and Salander develop a sexual relationship. [Indeed, it's undertones of the memories of this relationship that drives much of books two and three.] But the movie has removed the sexual aspects from two of the other relationships Mikael has with female characters.
Despite all that, this movie lives and dies on one turn: it's ability to 'get it right' with its casting of Lisbeth. Over and over I would to my wife "Lisbeth better be good." And she'd tell me the same thing repeatedly. And others I know have the same mantra: don't mess with my ideal vision of Lisbeth. In that light, Noomi Rapace represents deliverance. She scored the essence of the character: we want Lisbeth to have that mix of smarts, hardened exterior, quirky beauty, ferocity and manic energy that drives the book. Ms. Rapace delivers all that in spades. She's maybe a little less elfin than the character described by Larsson, but other than that, she's the Lisbeth from my head.
I urge all fans of the book to see this enjoyable adaptation. [Oplev made all three movies at once, so the other two are headed this way.] Embrace the subtitles. This is a Swedish story through and through. It deserves to be seen in Swedish. It's distressing to see US box office totals stalling at less than $10M. All that is going to do is fuel the drive to complete an insipid US version with some disheartening casting like Brad Pitt as Mikael and god knows who as Lisbeth. Whoever steps into that role, Noomi Rapace has already left her well behind at the starting line.
on January 8, 2012
This movie has brutally graphic scenes of forcible rape and solomy that are not in the trailer or discription that can cause severe reactions in survivors of such who are not prepared for it and should not be unknown to those who do not want to be subjected to them. NOT going to be "enjoyable" for those who are sensitive to such, during or after.
on December 15, 2011
To the point, DO NOT MISS THIS "EXTENDED EDITION" if you are interested in the Swedish film/TV production of Steig Larson's novel of the same name (or either of the other two productions in the series). WHETHER OR NOT you have already seen the seriously truncated (shortened, mangled) version which was earlier released on DVD, BD, and streaming, THIS IS NOT TO BE MISSED. Unlike the previously released version, this "extended edition" provides a coherent presentation. Being one of the inexplicably over the top fans of anything connected with the three Larsen novels (or associated biographies, etc), I read all three novels early this year and then waited with bated breath for the "movie" versions. I was seriously disappointed with all three earlier, shortened movie releases, and particularly the last two of the three in the series. This was because new characters suddenly showed up on the screen without either sufficient introduction, or even identification. Or there were very significant holes in the story line (in addition to those already extant in the novels!).
As many of you will know, the three novels were filmed for Swedish television, with one film for each of the three novels. This disc presents one of the three films as originally formed and appearing on Swedish television - each film, including this one, was broken into two segments of approximately 90 minutes in length, for a movie lasting a total of 180 minutes. When the Swedish TV version was presented in American theaters (and DVDs and BDs, the latter which I own), it was re-edited, and seriously shortened. As far as I am concerned, this ruined all three original "movie" presentations.
Despite the fact that the productions were evidently produced for first showing on Swedish TV, the production values (both sight and sound) are certainly comparable to those of first rate American movies. This reviewer does not know but strongly suspects that the producers had ultimate theater showing in mind when the films were made.
And finally, the Amazon's streamed version of the Extended Edition is free of notable artifacts on this reviewer's 109 inch Stewart Screen - in the streamed version the color balance and brightness are good - the black levels, interfered with by encoding and transmission noise, do not equal that of the BluRay disc, but are certainly acceptable. Needless to say, I was grateful and quite thrilled that the original version finally made it to market in Amazon's streamed version with Amazon's typical quality!
Released just in time to happily mesh with the American publishing advent of the last book in the Millennium trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson, this film adaptation of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" should provide admirers of Lisbeth Salander (hacker extraordinaire and victim of a renegade faction of the Swedish social system) with more than enough fan-tastic material to orbit them into "Girl" heaven.
Director Niels Arden Oplev depicts a Sweden icy in its efficiency; its cleanliness apparent in its scenes of smooth running undergrounds, bridges and autobahns. Beneath the crisp perfection of the surroundings, a misogynist undercurrent flares with the overt intensity of a laser as illustrated by the instantaneous hatred displayed by a pack of leather-clad youths subjugating a young woman to physical abuse in the subway, a guardian of mature years attacking his ward and a teenager subjected to repeated rape and beatings. Director of photography, Eric Kress, intentionally showcases gritty up close and personal full screen faces of the film's protagonists where large pores, warts and all contribute to the feeling of an underlying lack of social airbrushing in spite of all the repressed punctiliousness of both the Scandinavian urban and rural scenes.
The film's leads, most notably Noomi Rapace as the unconventional Salander and Michael Nyqvist as crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist, more than adequately do justice to their fictitious counterparts. Rapace's waiflike appearance, economy of motion and smoldering glares bring the understandably sullen Lisbeth to toxic life. Nyqvist's vaguely Charleton Heston sensuality and amused sophistication fleshes out the likeable and idealistic Blomkvist but writers Rasmus Heisterberg and Nikolaj Arcel omit the character's casual sexual relationships with Millenium editor-in-chief Erika Berger, Cecelia Vanger and former babysitter Harriet. Grant it, the film, running over two and a half hours, has little time to waste on gratuitous sexual footage and exploring instead Blomkvist's woes as a convicted journalist and Salander's smoldering rage regarding her tempestuous and unforgivable childhood in a more than adequate adaptation of the novel's main plotline: the collaboration of the two to investigate and resolve a forty-year old murder on an isolated island populated by a wealthy industrial family. Kress again does a more than admirable job of interjecting B&W stills into key moments of revelation during the investigation. In particular is the forty year old photo of the missing/murdered Harriet, enigmatically staring out from her photo frame like an avenging Mona Lisa.
With never a slow moment, the film whets the appetite for more Salander victory moments--the over fifty art house audience with which I viewed this film was more than familiar with Lisbeth's special skills, dark moods and vindictive motivations; lively conversation before and after the film suggested a group already well-versed through the pages of the novels. Each time Salander displayed her ample hacking abilities, unselfconsciously took what she wanted and knowingly puzzled out a conundrum of Chinese proportions, the audience burst into appreciative laughter or applause, suggesting that the cult of the underdog as epitomized by the tattooed and pierced eighty-something pound, 24 year old Salander was alive and well admired by the sector of American senior citizens who frequent long foreign speaking films with English subtitles.
This reviewer's disappointment came only once with the film's exclusion of the last scene of the novel where Salander, in observing love interest Blomkvist with long-time lover Erika Berger, feels pangs of the ever familiar betrayal, jealousy and resentment of which she has grown accustomed. Seeing Salander's vulnerability in this context would have segued me right into the next film with no degree of difficulty. I also wondered if those who had not read the book prior to seeing the film had difficulty keeping all the plot threads tucked neatly into a well-organized ball.
Bottom line? Director Niels Arden Oplev's adaptation of journalist Stieg Larsson's 600+ page crime thriller, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" successfully entertains and captivates its audience with a faithful representation of the first in a series of three films based on the Millennium trilogy recounting the trials and tribulations of an abused and misunderstood girl with extraordinary powers of perception and technological skills. Cinematography by Eric Kress features a lovely and diffused snow-flaked Sweden compared to the harsh depravity of some of it inhabitants as seen baldly under the glare of too bright light that show every crease, wrinkle and enlarged pore. Noomi Rapace's performance as Lisbeth smarts with an indignation and nonconformity applauded by audiences of all ages and mindsets. A thoroughly entertaining and compelling storyline underlined by special skills makes this one a must see for all those who love the crime genre. Filmed in Swedish with English subtitles. Mature themes and graphic violence not intended for viewing by young children. Highly Recommended.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
Perhaps it is the current need to see that evil eventually consumes itself that make films like THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (AKA "Män som hatar kvinnor") so successful. Or it may be the posthumous fame given Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy (from which this film is 'Millennium: Part 1 - Men Who Hate Women') that has prepared an audience of believers. Whatever the reason this first installment (the other two installments have already been filmed and are ready for release) is being hailed as an epic masterpiece, a film that will go down in cinematic history as a classic. And for that reason you may want to see this current long exploration of the evil of man. But is it a masterpiece.....?
Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg adapted this book for the screen and the script is interpreted by director Niels Arden Oplev who has cast the many characters of the story with some excellent Swedish actors. By the end of this multi-twisted tale we are left satisfied with the balance of good over evil - or are we? After all we're only part way there and, as in the BOURNE SERIES in this country, subsequent parts to the story become only more bizarre - and exciting. At any rate, the story in brief deals with an investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) whose apparent loss of a case of libel against a wealthy corrupt corporate group results in his being chosen by an elderly but mentally vigorous gentleman Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) to investigate a long buried case of the apparent murder of his niece -a deed Vanger is convinced is associated with his disgustingly morally corrupt family. Blomkvist is fascinated and begins his tedious examination of film and facts that seem to add clues as to the mystery surrounding Harriet Vanger's disappearance. Enter a punk rock appearing, pierced and tattooed young girl Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Repace) who ends up assisting Blomkvist in solving the conundrum. After some rather confusing bits of replay of Lisbeth's past and the revelation of her current situation with a guardian assigned to control her after her recent discharge from an institution, we are allowed to watch the discovery of 40 years of serial killings of young girls: the fact that they are all Jewish and that Vanger's family contains a number of ex-Nazis boils the pot. Much gore, visual exposure to violence and the results of violence flood the screen as the eventual discovery of the true history of Harriet Vanger is uncovered.
The film is two and a half hours long but seems much shorter because of the rapid fire sequencing by the director. Much praise has been heaped on Noomi Repace as Lisbeth and while she performs well, and looks bizarre, one wonders why all the hoopla. This is a good film of its kind, very well transforming a book into cinematic excess, and for those who crave gore and acts of depravity it will probably please. For film goers who prefer thinking to raw action this may not be the choice of a film du jour. In Swedish with subtitles and with English dubbing. Grady Harp, July 10
on December 23, 2011
This week I watched both this Swedish Blu-Ray and saw the just-released American remake in the theater, and I have read the first two books.
I rate both versions at five stars--great films. There is 5.1 Dolby Digital in Swedish with the option of dubbed English dialog. I watched the Swedish language version with English subtitles, although the English dubbing did seem pretty good. The quality of sound and picture on the Blu-Ray is excellent.
This Swedish film is closer to the book in detail and in dramatic portrayal. The scenery seemed more stark and cold, and the murders more appalling. Lizbeth's propensity for violence is better portrayed, and as the film progresses we get better insight into why Lizbeth is socially dysfunctional than in the American version. The reporter, Blomkvist, spends three months in jail in the Swedish version, but no jail time in the American version, and his humiliation is therefore all the greater.
Noomi Repaces's Lizbeth is harsher than that of Rooney Mara in the American version and therefore more effective. Rooney Mara's amazing beauty inevitably softens her character in the American version even though her acting is excellent. The fate of the dead niece, Harriet, is far closer to the book in the Swedish version and has more dramatic impact.
Noomi Repaces's dragon tattoo covers her back and is truly formidable. After all, the tattoo is the point of the title.
There are many other gratuitous discrepancies in the American version that detract from the drama that made Larsson's book so powerful.
Blomquist is portrayed as the same sharp researcher and unaware babe-magnet in both films. Michael Nyqvist and Daniel Craig both give excellent performances--true to Larsson's character--with Craig having the edge.
If you are comfortable with subtitles, then this Swedish version might be your best choice, especially if you have already read the novel. If you prefer a more American style movie with well-known, somewhat better looking, Hollywood actors; especially if you have not read the book; then the American version may be your best choice. Or, as I did, watch the Swedish recording and then the American movie in the theater.