“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.