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“Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” spins sticky web of thrills, lies


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (*** out of 4)

Editor’s note: Music Box Films continues to expand this movie after limited, successful theatrical runs in New York and Los Angeles

It’s difficult watching Niels Arden Opley’s original “Dragon,” an adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling crime novel, without thinking ahead to the already announced American remake. Will Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan of “An Education” win the coveted, cultish role of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander? How will she approach the part, which would require her to endure extremely harsh physical and psychological challenges? And who should they cast alongside her as Mikael Blomkvist, a sullied journalist caught up in a web of intrigue?

Such distractions only last so long, for Opley’s film — or, more specifically, Larsson’s lurid and twisty mystery — quickly pulls you into a 40-year-old cold case, a desperate search for a woman gone missing who’s believed to have been killed.

Heartbroken Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) hires Blomkvist to poke around his dreary island abode and attempt to solve a crime. Decades ago, Vanger’s niece, Harriet (Ewa Froling), disappeared during a family gathering. Circumstances would have prevented her from leaving the island on her own — the only bridge off the mainland was blocked by a spilled oil tanker. And every Vanger relative, particularly those with ties to the Nazi party, is considered a suspect.

Blomkvist’s investigation eventually crisscrosses with the intriguing Salander (furious, passionate Noomi Rapace), a hacker hired by Milton Security to intrude on the journalist’s laptop files. As clues point down dark roads, the two form a classic detective team and confront the shadows cloaking the case because, well, staring these evils down with company is better than tackling them alone.

“There is no answer,” Blomkvist is told. No easy one, that’s for sure. “Dragon Tattoo” lifts the lid off uncomfortable social truths. It’s also about man’s obsession with finding a truth — any truth — when all he has dined on for decades are lies. Opley retains the well-told whodunit that churns through Larrson’s book. Visually speaking, it’s heavy on ominous atmosphere. Thematically, it’s unapologetically misogynistic. (The film was released overseas with the title “Men Who Hate Women,” and that fits like a glove.) But the potboiler is reminiscent in tone and execution of a well-worn Agatha Christie novel, as it should be. Now the last remaining mystery surrounding “Dragon” is how the American remake will fare.

About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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  • April 30, 2010 | Permalink |

    carey mulligan is so talented, i have no doubts that she will pull off the role in the new version

  • May 2, 2010 | Permalink |

    ‘new version’? Though it will be ‘newer’ the current Swedish language version is hardly ‘old’.

    Why is everyone convinced that Mulligan will be good in this role. I really don’t think that a ‘talented actress’ can play ANY role she wants. This is a particularly special role in the sense that it is not only an adaptation of a hugely worldwide bestseller but the title character has become such a worldwide cult icon.

    No disrespect to Mulligan, she was great as Jenny in An Education, but Salander will be a much more challenging character to portray. I’m really not convinced she will be the correct choice.

  • July 5, 2010 | Permalink |

    I don’t really understand why there even has to be a “new version”. Just saw this one – it’s absolutely awesome. Great acting, great atmosphere, suspense throughout; in one word, a perfect film. Why do Americans need their own version?

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