I’ve been feeling like Woody Allen in one of his early movies where he’s sitting among dour people on a stopped train, and he looks over and sees another train with happy, laughing people. For me, the other train is filled with people reading and loving the book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson.
I enjoy a good mystery, but that book didn’t grab me. I couldn’t finish the first chapter. Am I too harsh? Everyone else seems to have loved it. Thus I went to see the Swedish movie version with subtitles in hopes of understanding the phenomenon—and I enjoyed it. I happen to like foreign films, swimming with the foreign sounds and identifying with the characters.
Helmed by Danish director Niels Arden Oplev, the story involves an idealistic Swedish journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who’s been sued for libel by a rich capitalist over an expose by Blomkvist. The journalist loses and must pay a heavy fine and go to jail for six months. Before he goes to jail, however, another rich capitalist, Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), eightysomething, hires Blomkvist to find out why his favorite niece, Harriet, disappeared decades earlier. Vanger suspects one of his relatives, three of whom were active Nazis during World War II.
Before hiring Blomkvist, one of Vanger’s relatives has used the services of a top computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), to check out the journalist. She finds he’s one of the more honest men around, and after the job, she continues to monitor Blomkvist’s email and finds him trying to solve a puzzle. She’s a damn good researcher and helps him anonymously with a clue. She also has a dragon tattoo, dresses in black, has nose rings, and pretty much satisfies the kind of imagery of a hot chick in video games, though skinnier and less round. The journalist and researcher get together.
Many men don’t treat women well in this story, which gives reason why the Swedish title of the book and movie is “Men Who Hate Women.” In fact, there are two rape scenes that are hard to watch, yet they're mild compared to what wasn't filmed. The theme is as clear as a dragon tattoo—yet Blomkvist is a great guy and gives the male of the species hope.
The mystery is solid and involving—nearly as good as Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer. There are not as many intriguing and haunting shots as in Polanski’s film, yet it was easy to get caught up in the Swedish countryside. The nearly three-hour film whisks by.
On a side note, I couldn’t help but notice how fast the Swedish trains are, and how fast Lisbeth’s computer streams data wirelessly while in a speeding car in a rural area. America is not the technological marvel we sometimes think it is.
To see the trailer for the film, click here.
To see the trailer for The Ghost Writer, click here.
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