The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Movie) Review – Riveting, More So for Stieg Larsson Fans

In one what must count as one of the great tragedies of the 21st century literary fiction world, Swedish writer Stieg Larsson never lived to enjoy the fruits of success from  his wildly popular crime novels.

Since most of ye schmucks read so little, some education is in order before we proceed to the movie review.

Larsson is the author of the Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).

Serious readers of the SI blog will, of course, recollect the Larsson name since we’ve reviewed two of his books on these pages: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire. We just got the third volume – The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – a few days back and will read and review that as well.

Alas, Larsson died of a massive heart attack at 50 just before the first book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was published.

Such then are the vagaries of life.

Lovely Swedish Film
Today we celebrate Larsson’s life with the review of the film version of Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

The movie debuted this morning at the Ritz 5 theater on Walnut St in Philadelphia and, folks, the 125-mile drive was most certainly worth it. Every single mile of it.

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, faithful to the novel and featuring Michael Nyqvist  as the journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace as the oddball hacker Lisbeth Salander, the Swedish language film with English subtitles is as wonderful and as gripping as the book.

Agreed, some of the thrill of the whodunit is lost since readers of the book know the ending and the identity of the rotten apple in the Vanger family. But that’s more than amply compensated by the excitement and anticipation of encountering in color on the big screen the characters  you’ve read about in small black print on the pages of a book.

Like the book, the movie focuses on the search for the killer/killers of 16-year-old Harriet Vanger, who disappeared 40 years back from Hedeby island to the great anguish of her dear grandfather Henrik Vanger, the head of the Vanger conglomerate.

In four decades, his missing grand-niece has become the idée fixe of Henrik Vanger’s life and the old man has left no stone unturned to get at the root of her disappearance. But in vain.

Finally, the old man in a last ditch attempt hires disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist to unravel the mysterious disappearance of Harriet.

Out of a job following his conviction in a libel case and awaiting a prison sentence, Blomkvist moves to the cold Hedeby island and gets to work to resolve Harriet’s disappearance.

The old man (Henrik Vanger) tells Blomkvist that the killer is surely among the ’30 small-minded and greedy people’ of the Vanger clan who had gathered on that fateful day in 1966 in Hedeby.

Unbeknownst to Blomkvist, our girl with the dragon tattoo Lisbeth Salander is also at work.

Quietly and in unorthodox ways.

And soon their paths collide.

There are two tracks in the movie – the main Harriet Vanger story and the lesser Lisbeth Salander account and they are neatly interwoven into the script.

Both Mikael Nyquist and Noomi Rapace are fine actors and do their parts with great aplomb.

Particularly, Noomi Rapace playing the girl Lisbeth, who’s a victim of every scumbag crossing her path.

Noomi Rapace seems to have been born to play the part of the emotionally disturbed Lisbeth, her weird piercings, large tattoo, odd mannerisms, secretive nature, bisexual appetite and all.

But it’s not just to Nyquist and Rapace that we owe a debt.

Sven-Bertil Taube as the old industrialist Henrik Vanger, Peter Haber as Martin Vanger and the rest of the crew are all a joy to watch.

Explicit Scenes
There are a few explicit scenes including one (two??) of brutal rape.

So unless you want your little son/daughter to ask you why a big dildo is being shoved into ****’s ass when he’s chained to the floor you might want to leave the kids pests at home.

Despite a fairly long running time (2-hours and 31-minutes), in the able hands of director Niels Arden Oplev the movie never has a dull moment and proceeds at a frenetic pace against the icy backdrop of Hedeby.

The photography is pleasing. And Hedeby island appears as remote and bleak and frigid and lonely in the movie as in the book.

The big questions are: Will non-readers of the book feel the same frisson of delight in the movie that we did? Will non-readers be able to navigate through the movie’s plot and large set of characters the way Larsson fans can do with ease?

In Europe, the movie is a big hit since its release in February 2009 (some chatter online suggests this film was the biggest grosser there in 2009).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is in limited release in the U.S. Check Fandango or to see if it’s playing in a theater near you.

Oh wait, here’s a list of U.S. theatres where The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is playing. Must be one close to you.

Enjoy the film and do let us know how you found it.

Surely, it won’t be long before a big budget Hollywood version with marquee names arrives. In a world with few certainties, the upcoming Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the few sure things.

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15 Responses to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Movie) Review – Riveting, More So for Stieg Larsson Fans"

  1. Asha Tampa   March 19, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    You know, I was a little scared to watch the movie – I’ve seen a couple of movie posters, and read about it on Google – but I was scared it might not turn out to be as good as the book. I wouldn’t be able to relate to the movie if even small nuances of the characters were changed. But now that you’ve given your verdict, I’ll give it a try. I don’t think it’s released here, though 🙁

    Oh, and off-topic – I was just writing my review of the Hornets’ Nest. Now that you have it, I’m sure you’ll be done by it by this weekend – unless you have some other plans. 😉 Responds:

    1. You write above: I wouldn’t be able to relate to the movie if even small nuances of the characters were changed.

    We felt there were some changes/omissions but considered them minor.

    2. You write: I was just writing my review of the Hornets’ Nest. Now that you have it….unless you have some other plans

    The B I G U.S. health-care reform bill will likely pass or collapse on Sunday. Busy following that and a few smaller things.

    Review of Hornet’s Nest won’t happen until middle of next week, at the earliest. Did you like it?

    BTW, we also recommend John Burdett’s books.

  2. Asha Tampa   March 19, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Loved it! Felt it was the best book of the saga.

    Though to be frank, I did not expect it to be so good.

    My dilemma now is I’m not able to find books that come close to Millennium’s genius. Will definitely try John Burdett and let you know. Responds:

    1. You write: Loved it! Felt it was the best book of the saga.

    Now, you’ve raised our AQ (anticipation quotient) for the Hornet’s Nest.

    2. John Burdett’s crime fiction (all set in Bangkok) is good but not in the Stieg Larsson league.

  3. Asha Tampa   March 20, 2010 at 12:04 am

    I’ve just started reading “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder. Let’s see how this one turns out. Responds:

    You seem to be in a Scandinavian mood these days! First Larsson and now Gaarder.

    It’s 1:07AM here and we’re starting to develop a White Russian craving. 😉

  4. Asha Tampa   March 20, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Heh, not really! That book was recommended by a close friend. And it’s 10:43 AM here, and I’m starting to develop a pizza craving. 😉

    [Deleted at commenter’s request] 😀 Responds:

    It takes us just 1 min to make and sip the White Russian.

    Bet we’ll be White Russianing before you start Pizzaing!

    Listening to O Saya (Slumdog Millionaire). Got the CD finally…$10 (to spite StrynLad). 😉

    • Asha Tampa   March 22, 2010 at 1:54 am

      Heh! Btw I completed my review for the hornets’ nest. Maybe you can check it out. And hey, read somewhere on the internet that the Millennium Series was originally intended to be a 5-book saga, but it ended abruptly cos of Stieg Larsson’s death. It’s so damn sad! 🙁

      Did you start the book yet? Responds:

      Will check your review.

      Haven’t started on the book yet.

  5. si101   March 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Are you planning to watch 2 of the most successful/talented teen actresses in “The Runaways”? RT has “mostly” positive reviews. From what I hear the younger Fanning has dominated (barely teen – turns 20 in April) KStew. Responds:

    Don’t know yet.

  6. Peri   March 28, 2010 at 4:23 am

    A swedish, a german, an italian and a french movie listed as Hollywood movies, maybe it´s time for a european movies section? Responds:

    This one was listed under Foreign Movies.

    Maybe, we’ll consider your suggestion and start an European movies section.

    If those shitty Indian movies can have so many sections (Bollywood, Kollywood, Tollywood et al), why not a special section for the more worthy European movies.

  7. Peri   March 28, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Anyway, I am from sweden and just saw the 3h version on TV and must say that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was not much better than all the other swedish movies of this sort we can see on TV every week.
    So while I´m waiting for Arya 2 DVD to arrive from India, I rewatch Magadheera.
    I am also waiting for the Varudu review on Searchindia. Responds:

    You write: So while I´m waiting for Arya 2 DVD to arrive from India, I rewatch Magadheera.

    Ha ha ha.

  8. Peri   March 29, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Arya 2 (and Shankam) arrived today, great songs, I will watch the whole movies later today.

    “The Girl who Played with Fire” on TV saturday, if you want a copy of that movie I will trade it with any Tollywood DVD :). Responds:

    You write: “The Girl who Played with Fire” on TV saturday, if you want a copy of that movie I will trade it with any Tollywood DVD

    They must open the bars early in Sweden, eh?

    Gosh, we have to wait another 4 hours. 😉

  9. முனிAndy   August 4, 2010 at 9:40 am

    This movie is on instant play.. didn’t know it was going to be Swedish 🙁 Will wait for the Hollywood version. Hope it won’t be K-Stew playing the heroine.

    Watched a pointless movie called “Runaways”.. atleast I can claim that I watched Dakota Fanning’s first “adult” movie. Her performance was good, but the movie was dull.. Responds:

    1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been on Instant Play for at least a week now.

    Daniel ‘Bond’ Craig has been picked to play the journalist Mikael Blomkvist in the Hollywood version. Source: People

    Search is on for the female lead.

    2. Have been planning to watch The Runaways for some time.

    • முனிAndy   August 4, 2010 at 11:42 am

      Never heard of Rooney Mara.. until today.. she is Transsiberian Kate’s sister, I learned.
      Have you watched pre-Juno Ellen’s “Hard Candy”.. it was good..

      Surprising that you haven’t gone to catch your Mia darling in “Kids Are All Right”.. it has got terrific reviews.. and a nice cast. Responds:

      The Kids are Alright has been on our mind…it’s playing in Philly but just don’t feel up to the 130-mile drive. Also busy taking another shot at writing a short story. This time, we’ll have something soon, for sure.

      Added Hard Candy to our queue.

      Looking forward to Julia Roberts’ Eat, Pray and Love, partially set and filmed in India.

      • முனிAndy   August 4, 2010 at 3:37 pm

        The Kids Are All Right
        R • 1 hr. 44 min.

        Opens Friday, August 6, 2010.

        Yours is the G-O-D-F-O-R-S-A-K-E-N state.. It is playing in 4 theaters near my home already. Responds:


        BTW, the same theater also screened My Name is Khan, Rajneeti, Raavan and Kites. Not bad, eh?

      • racer44   August 4, 2010 at 9:28 pm

        “Also busy taking another shot at writing a short story.”

        That’s interesting. You’ll, of course, be posting it on the blog??? Don’t worry, no one’ll bother to copy it. But we’ll sure be hoping to “review” it, SI-ishtyle. 😉 Responds:

        You write: You’ll, of course, be posting it on the blog???

        Most likely, yes.

        The subject will make it a little difficult to “review” it, SI-ishtyle. 😉

  10. vjcool   January 17, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    BTW have you seen the other two movies in the trilogy Responds:

    Yes, all the Swedish films.

    We thought we’d reviewed them too but can’t find them here.

  11. vjcool   January 18, 2012 at 2:19 am

    the hollywood remakes never compare, they @#$% it up with lots of unnecessary CG and star power…

    anyway… what you think of this… 100$ for this phone seems too steep… Responds:

    We have not seen the recent Hollywood remake of Dragon Tattoo.

    As for John’s Phone, you can read the Amazon reviews here. Looks like a no-frills basic phone useful for travelers.

    Never heard of John’s here…only heard of Johns. 😉

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