Film Review: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

Hey folks!

The always cool Miz Libby Hellmann has kindly agreed to share her writing skills and opinionated nature to offer up a review of film version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. If you are not familiar with her, check out her website and get acquainted with this talented writer and very cool lady.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Film Review

For those of you who loved Steig Larson’s novel, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, you’re in for a treat. The film, directed by Danish director Niels Arden Oplev and released in the U.S. last week, is just as good. Maybe better.

The novel, for anyone who’s been on Jupiter for the past few years, is about the search for a wealthy Swedish businessman’s niece who disappeared 40 years ago. The first of a trilogy, DRAGON TATTOO introduces two unlikely allies: investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist, and Goth hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander.

Although it became a mesmerizing read, the novel started off slowly, and, for me, was too long. Not the film. All the excessive bloat has been stripped away, and once the film starts, it doesn’t slow down. The pacing and suspense – and the sense of impending evil — builds incrementally but relentlessly, until I was on the edge of my seat. And I already knew the ending.

At the same time, the film is remarkably faithful to the plot and its underlying themes. All the important plot points are in the film, and the gloom and chill of the Swedish winter (and its inhabitants) are nicely reinforced by the photography.
That’s not to say some of the characters don’t get short shrift. We barely see Erika Berger. Dragan Armanski, Lisbeth’s boss and staunchest ally prior to Blomquist, barely makes an appearance. Moreover, the final chapters of the book in which Lisbeth takes down Wennerstrom are also truncated.

Just like the book, which was hard to put down, it was difficult to turn away from the film, even for a moment. Watching Blomkvist and Salander unravel the truth piece by piece was just as satisfying as reading it in the book. Seeing the chilly Vanger family slowly come apart was, too. I could see the homage to Larson’s book in many scenes: for example, the cottage where Blomkvist stayed on the estate was perfect; so was Lisbeth’s apartment. I also enjoyed seeing what looked like genuine “screenshots” off Lisbeth’s computer, rather than something created in post with special effects. However the room in the basement was more high-tech than I remembered.

All the characters are sharply drawn, but the star of the film is clearly Lisbeth. Noomi Rapace, the Swedish actress who plays her is just as I’d imagined her in he book: small, dark , wiry, with plenty of piercings. She is silent during much of her onscreen time, but the intensity in her eyes speaks volumes. Her anti-social behavior led reviewer Roger Ebert to say she might have had a form of Asperger’s Syndrome. I hadn’t considered that when reading the book, but after seeing her on screen, it wasn’t a hard leap. Blomquist (played by Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist) plays off her ferocity with a calm I didn’t appreciate in the book; in fact, at times he appears almost naïve. The other characters underplay their roles quite well; the only character who might over act is Lisbeth’s sexually abusive guardian.

Speaking of which, the violence in the film is graphic and seemed more visceral than in the book. Whether it’s the translation from page to screen, or whether the director emphasized violence to make a point, I’m not sure. But even my 21 year old daughter, who usually is up for anything, had to turn away at times.

At two and a half hours, it’s a little long, but given the scope of the book, not excessive. The time passes quickly, and I was sucked in. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that Hollywood can do anything to top it. If you liked the book, I highly recommend the film. You won’t be disappointed.

Libby Hellmann

Libby Fischer Hellmann’s 6th novel, DOUBLEBACK, a thriller, was released in October, 2009, by Bleak House Books. In it PI Georgia Davis is paired with video producer and single mother Ellie Foreman, the protagonist of Libby’s other 4-book series. Libby also writes short stories and edited the acclaimed CHICAGO BLUES. Originally from Washington DC, she has lived in Chicago for 30 years and finds the contrast between the beautiful and the profane in that city a crime writer’s paradise.