Greetings, all and sundry!
Having enjoyed a brief respite from double features and the career and filmography of Walter Matthau. I return refreshed and relaxed from a rather intriguing sojourn around The Sundance Channel. Indulging in their wares and finding their menu to be of very high and discerning quality. Providing all three delectable courses of the original, much written about and critiqued “Millennium Trilogy“of films.
Centering around a disgraced journalist. Mikael Blomkvist. Desperate to get his and his magazine’s reputation back after a three month sentence and large fine for losing a libel case in 1992 against financier and billionaire, Hans-Erik Wennerström. Taking on a job of historic research in the case of a girl who has been missing since 1966. And in need of someone who is better at over turning ancient rocks and investigating than he is. Someone with mad skills, who has already hacked into his laptop.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)
Lisbeth Salander, by name. (Marvelously subtle and underplayed, Noomi Rapace!) Possessing a more than tragic past. Institutionalized and judged mentally incompetent since childhood for trying to immolate her abusive, wife beating father. Lisbeth has inner demons writ indelibly large. An ultimate Outsider with very few social skills, because she has never had time to develop them. Living hand to mouth from a monthly, miserly stipend provided by a sadistic sick puppy of a guardian and lawyer, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson. As fat and ugly on the outside as in!). Lisbeth seeks to be free. And is not above using means fair, foul or underhanded to achieve it.
Though to aid in achieving it, Lisbeth needs a better paying gig than her present one of providing Cyber Security, cameras and the like for people and businesses above her social standing. One that can utilize her voracious appetite for knowledge, histories, research, all things digital. And her photographic memory.
Her meeting with Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist. Brooding, hungry and oddly ruggedly handsome) and those proposing the “Historic Whodunnit?!” involving a missing girl from the 60s goes about as well as expected. With Lisbeth unearthing and presenting tidbits about the secretive, well do do Vanger family in question. As well as some naughty bits of gossip about the company footing the bill. Not exactly a match made in Heaven. But one that intrigues and pleases Blomkvist.
Lisbeth dives deep into research. When not arranging another assignation with Bjurman for dwindling funds from a recently purchased and secreted digital camera. Which is used to great value as the lawyer goes a bit Medieval in regards to his sexual proclivities.
Meanwhile, Mikael travels far outside Stockholm to the Vanger estate .About ten minutes away from the small island town of Hedestad, which hasn’t seemed to have evolved into the 21st century. All rustic as hell and lovely to look at. But basically, the dark side of the Moon in regard to technology, tower signals and anything else a investigative reporter may need. Oh, there are people to interview. The Vanger family. The missing girl, Harriet’s Anti Semite brother, Martin (Played to creepy, arrogant perfection by Peter Haber). And older, even more vile cousin Cecilia (Marika Langercrantz, who should be adorned in National Socialist gray or black). Who has no time for people in general. And even less for Mikael. Speaking in roundabout riddles and non answers as journals and photo albums and other documentary grist are offered up for Blomkvist to digest.
Lisbeth has been equally busy dissecting Harriet’s diary. Where she finds a loose thread to tug. That opens up a skein of other missing and murdered girls dating back to the 1950s. All with Jewish names. That fits with pronounced and underlined verses from Leviticus. And allows some time for Lisbeth to get some substantial payback on her guardian, Bjurman. Arranging a meet that finds Bjurman tasered, seriously restrained and at the mercy of his and the state’s vengeful ward. Lisbeth lays down the new ground rules while tattooing Bjurman’s chest with the message” “I am a sadistic pig and a rapist”.
Bjurman is to open up all access to Lisbeth’s collected trust. And only glowing reports about her “progress” are to be made to his higher ups. Period. No negotiation. And Bjurman will be monitored to make sure his new tattoo is NOT removed. Or she will be back!!!
Satisfied for the moment, Lisbeth travels to the Vanger estate to fill in Mikael on her progress regarding Harriet and the earlier missing girls. Mikael talks to the town’s retired police detective and learns about “Children’s Day” in 1966. The last time Harriet was seen alive. Mikael rents a flat from which a group of photos conating Harriet and other girls were taken that day. And Lisbeth sets up video security on their estate digs. When not backtracking Wennerström’s finances, diversifications and slowly revealed, many off shore accounts. With that information put aside, Lisbeth gains access to the archives of the Vanger family businesses. While Mikael focuses on Martin’s reclusive brother, Harald. Who, along with Martin shared an unsavory reputation around Hedestad. Deeper investigation reveals a time line that not only includes Martin, but his long deceased father, Gottfried.
Harald is looking more and more like the guilty party. And Mikael breaks rather clumsily into his home. Harald intervenes and Martin arrives like the cavalry to save Mikael’s bacon. On the way back to Mikael’s digs. Mikael talks a bit too much and his words come a bit too close to home. Martin drugs Mikael. Drags him back to his well equipped basement to indulge in his own murderous form(s) of adult entertainment. While Lisbeth returns back to the estate. Finds Mikael missing. Checks the video feed and sees Martin carrying something large and body like into the night’s shadows a short time earlier.
While Lisbeth hurries to Martin’s house. Mikael finds himself bound. Suspended and choked from the basements low ceiling. Listening to Martin detail the number of young girls killed by at first, his father’s. And later, his hand. Martin waxes so poetic and nostalgic about the people in numbers he can’t remember. Lisbeth slinks downstairs and catches Martin between the shoulder blades with a seven iron. Gets a few licks and kicks of her own in before Martin runs away.
Lisbeth frees Mikael and gives chase on her motorcycle after Martin’s disappearing Land Rover. Weaves in and out of traffic until Martin catches the corner of a semi trailer full of lumber. That sends the Land Rover careening and tumbling. And leaves Martin pinned upside down and helpless behind the wheel as gasoline drips onto licking, flickering flames as Lisbeth draws close and watches…
As with all decent films and long running evening soap operas. All is revealed in the last fifteen minutes. Yes. Harriet went missing after the Children’s Day celebration. Though the photo of so much attention is of Cecilia’s younger sister, Anita. Also young, blonde and beautiful. Who helped Harriet escape the sexually abusive hands of her recently murdered (Boat oar upside the head. Drowning) and disgusting father, Gottfried. And the lecherous habits of young Martin. Who had witnessed the event.
Blomkvist tracks Harriet down in the wild open Outback of Australia. Having lived for years under Anita’s name. Harriet fills in the details of the rapes and abuse of her at familial hands while flying back to Stockholm. And a reunion with the only decent Vanger on the planet. Her uncle, Henrick.
While Blomkvist is tying up loose ends. So is Lisbeth. Traveling to banks far and wide in a blonde wig and high fashion. And raiding them more than enough for a full blown, no holds barred investigation of Wennerström’s corporate graft and corruption. All duly noted by the little seen (In this film. Much more in later tales) staff of Millennium magazine. Capitalizing on details and sensation and putting themselves in a higher strata than before.
Now. What Makes This Film Good?
A director, Neils Arden Oplev whose pedigree is nearly solidly television. Taking on a rather large and sweeping story of an original novel by Steig Larsson (Whose original title was: Men Who Hate Women). And giving it the maturity and attention to detail and often graphic and off putting topic like this demands. And yes, this is “Adult Material”. And may not be everyone’s cup of tea as deeply buried stones are unearthed, turned over and their brutal, vile histories revealed.
Into this morass steps Noomi Rapace‘s Lisbeth Salander. Her arms tucked in close in defensive solitude. Her head down, often under a baseball cap and hoodie when plying crafts better made anonymous and near invisible in a crowd. Sometimes maintaining a forward leaning posture when reading her notes and half expecting a challenge. Keeping her inner demons in check through body language subtle and pronounced. Lest those demons escape through her appendages and fingertips. Ms. Rapace is an absolute wonder to watch. As she holds the camera’s attention and allows you to glimpse those demons.
Michael Nyqvist is no slouch either. Far less worldly and much more blue collar than Daniel Craig in the later, David Fincher directed, American version. Looking more like a failed, former boxer or rugby player than a investigator and newshound. Who makes mistakes. Sometimes says too much when he shouldn’t. And not enough when he should. Helping cinematographer Eric Kress keep an even strain and tension in the slow excavation of viable names, locations and dates from the obfuscations of those he’s interviewing.
Attention must be paid to the dialogue and its subtitles as well as the full pallet of less than friendly, desirable and arrogantly untouchable Vanger family. And the pompously smug bureaucrats who briefly interface and believe they hold sway over Lisbeth. Their day of reckoning occurs later in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest.
What Makes This Film Great?
A story worthy of a top budget and A-list director told on a smaller, more manageable scale. With the deft and liberal use of darkness, shadows and cramped cityscape in and around Stockholm. With an added layer of isolation when trekking out to the island city of Hedestad. Where the Vanger family lords over all and prefers that their secrets remain secret.
The film also plunges deep and sloshes around with the patent patriarchy instilled in a culture separated from most. And never being called on their behavior and never been told “no!”. And even with a running time of 152 minutes. One might think patience is a requirement. Though with superior editing by Anne Osterud, time flows smoothly, seamlessly and only a minimum of lost time and over long scenes. All moved briskly along with original music by Jacob Groth.
Extremely high marks to Tusse Lande, Jenny Fred and Cilla Rorby for casting so many well made up evil and dressed people. And, as with any origin story in a series of stories. Those mentioned here will also figure prominently in The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest.
Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews
Thoughts on this film? Let it be known in the comments.
49 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)”
I’ve not yet seen this version, or read any reviews in comparison to the Fincher one. Judging from this I should probably give it a go. A good solid read.
Thanks for taking the time to peruse, comment so graciously and start the conversation.
Both versions of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ stand on their own merits and really boil down to personal choice. While Fincher’s take on the project has a safer, more homogenized feel. Oplev takes the time to detail back stories and deliver with raw, sometimes creepy gusto.
If I’ve piqued your curiosity to try this first tale. I’ve done my job well.
Hope to see you opine more often!
I still have to check this one out. The David Fincher film was one of my favorites of 2011… I just have to make some time to check out the original!
I’m not going to twist your arm, but I am going to steer you in the right direction. In full faith that you’ll allow the time to take in a different perspective.
I’d love to see some feedback in the future!
I am thrilled, Kevin, that you wrote about the original and much much better version of GWDT.
Raw, authentic, creeepy and wonderful! The acting, the direction. GREAT post.
Thanks so much!
I caught this film almost by accident on The Sundance Channel a few weeks after seeing the Fincher version on Epix. And I knew I’d write about it within the first twenty minutes.
Loving its grainy feel and no frills approach to an adult topic. And the disgusting characters who may or may not have something to do with it.
I thought the setting was a perfect compliment. The cold snow, the frigid landscape by the North Sea. Lisbeth’s acting. Fantastic. What an unlikely heroine and so glad she gets the best of her abuser. The other two sequels that follow are worth watching but not as good as GDT, but I did like Christopher Plummer’s job in the newer version.
The first story, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ is what I call “No slack cinema”. What you see of the surroundings is what you get. Secluded, near end of the line Hedestad sets the stage marvelously for the lesser tales that follow.
Though I think ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire’ goes far deeper into Lisbeth’s childhood and background. And my belief that children should be able to choose their parents.
You understand more why Lisbeth is the way she is and what she does about it. Very much like Andrew Vachss’ urban anti-hero, “Burke” in his line of novels.
Lisbeth makes a very unique heroine for the 21st century!
I am usually very picky when it comes to book adaptations (most of the time they are rubbish with a very few exceptions) but this one is top notch! Great book, great movie, superb cast. It is definitely a must!
Excellent comment and great catch.
I’m very much the same way when it comes to adaptations. Good and great ones are so rare.
And Oplev takes the time to present as much as he can. Large details and small. Because the story demands it.
Thank you. I am glad you agree. 🙂 And even though I liked the American version as well I have to say it was rather unnecessary as it didn’t really bring anything new to the story.
Nice detailed review there Jack! I maybe a little bias since I’m a big fan of his but I still prefer Fincher’s version. As you said, Neils Arden Oplev has mostly done work in TV so I though this one just looked way too much like a TV movie, I’m not saying it’s bad by any means but I prefer the more expensive remake. 🙂 Both films took some liberties with the original material but I did like the way this film ended than the remake, that version felt rushed.
Personal preferences and choices are what this and other sites and blogs are all about. And both perspectives stand on their own merits. Fincher’s tale stands out for having Rough and rugged Daniel Craig playing such a non Daniel Craig character.
Fincher’s project feels like it ends abruptly because the following two tales may still be up in the air. Where with Oplev the cash and wherewithal for the trilogy was already set. And allowed him to start paving the way for ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire’.
Agreed. Also i liked how in this version Lisbeth was rather blase about her tryst with Blomkvist,,and wasn’t really judged for it. I found it refreshing to see a female character take that approach to a sexual encounter and not be shamed for it.
Also, don’t take this the wrong way but i liked you went with a more modern film as your focus on attention this time around,since i know you like to focus on older films in your posts
Lisbeth had to reach out to someone and Mikael did a lot to earn that kind of trust. It seemed inevitable, comfortable and a bit spontaneous. Not a high point, but a step away from her past.
Completely on her terms.
And thanks very much! I’ll admit that older is better, but if something new comes along and piques my interest. I’ll send a review off to Ruth.
I never bothered with the remake because I felt it was pointless. I have seen the original and it’s a good film except I felt some of its content was edgy for the sake of being edgy. I never followed it up by watching the other two though. I’ve heard they’re pretty good as well. Very nice write up.
Sundance Channel has had all three stories of the trilogy on through prime time and long into the following morning on a few occasions.
‘Tattoo’ is the best executed of the three. With ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ deep into Lisbeth’s childhood and abusive, wife beating father. Who the father is. And the basic carte blanche as to his past and how Stockholm’s powers that be bend over for him.
While ‘The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest’ is the final payback and come uppance for those who abused Lisbeth during her years long psychiatric stay and evaluations.
Superior fare, indeed!
They have also been on Netflix streaming for a while now. I’ve had them in my queue for ages now. I’ve got to get to them at some point.
Glad to see such a glowing review of this film. I prefer this version to David Fincher’s, as well as Noomi Rapace’s performance to Rooney Mara’s. More people should definitely check out this film.
Noomi Rapace’s pulled in tight body language caught my eye right off the bat. Letting everyone know she was damaged good, but just how badly is the question. Laying the groundwork for a great tale very well told!
Nice review. It’s a long movie, but at least it kept me on the edge just about the whole time. Better than I expected, that’s for damn sure.
The film does clock in at just over two and a half hours, but does cover the story’s characters, plots, subplots and twists in a way that moves fluidly and surprisingly quickly. Keeping up the tension and suspense as more and more is revealed.
Tackling an adult topic in an intelligent manner. That moves away from the safe, cookie cutter ways of Hollywood.
I’m glad you enjoyed my review. Hope to see you drop by and comment in the future!
Great review Jack. I’m a big fan of this film and, in my opinion, it’s far superior to the Fincher version, although that may well be because I don’t think the American remake needs to exist. I wasn’t so much of a fan of the sequels though, I thought they were a little boring to be honest.
Thanks so much!
This film does seem to go deeper into the backgrounds and stories of the principal and minor characters than Fincher’s offering. Much grittier, devious and forlorn away from Stockholm as well. Creating a great way to establish a beach head for the following two films. That may lack the former’s action. But plunge deep into the abuse of power. And the power of abuse.
A great review and spotlight here, jack deth! I agree in your summary here. I watched the original (left the remake alone) and it is a dark story told well although, I found the end and the reveal to be a tiny bit lacking in explanation for me.
It’s always great when you opine!
Oplev’s film(s) is a subtle at first, yet suspenseful experiment in the who’s, where’s, why’s and how people tick. Revealed slowly as layers upon layers are peeled away. In regard to Lisbeth, Mikael, the Sangers and the double dealings of Wennerstrom (The guy who did Mikael wrong!). A definite four course meal of a film!
The film’s may feel a bit weak and lacking. As it sets up the following two tales. Which have more than enough “reveal” and “explanation” to satisfy!
I haven’t seen this movie either, but I’m not sure if I should read the book first. Lol. My cousins are huge literary buffs and one of them said that this movie is the closest she’s ever seen in a movie being close to the book. I’m reading other books now, so I’m not sure when I’ll ever get a chance to read it. Great review Ruth!
Hi Java Girl! I can’t take credit for this review as it’s a guest post from Jack. I’m actually quite squeamish so I’m afraid this film would be too violent for me.
Btw, when I first saw your name Java Girl I thought you’re Indonesian. I was actually born in an island called Java in Indonesia, where the term for coffee comes from 😀
Ahah, I share your ‘plight’ about being confused for different Nationalities. I’ve been asked if I’m Filipinos, Hawaiian, Thai, Chinese, Latina, Korean, etc. I’m part Chinese so I guess that’s make sense, but my complexion is a bit darker so they mistake me for being Thai/Filipino a lot. My hubby also gets mistaken for being Mexican all the time and he’s from Jakarta like me.
Haha, nice to meet you too Ruth! My eyes are what makes people think I am Hawaiian. I do get mistaken for being Tai too. Especially being Spanish. I get hugged and attacked by friendly people who assume I am someone they know. It scares the crap out of me when they do that…and I feel embarrassed when they start talking real fast in Spanish and I’m standing there like a deer in headlights! Me, no speako Spanish!! LOL! Oh. Since you like Hiddleston too, here is a link of Tom speaking about acting. I think you’ll find it interestingt!!!
“No speako Spanish” That’s hilarious girl! I really think people shouldn’t just assume someone is from their own country y’know, at the very least they should ask first, ahah.
Oh cool, I’ll check that out. I love Tom’s way of speaking, it’s mesmerizing. He really did me in as Loki, more so than Chris Hemsworth with his tree-trunk arms! 😀
Haha! I’ve never been much of a muscle kind of girl. I like the average height or tall and slim kind, like Loki! Tom can do so many impressions, it’s hysterical! He even immitates Chris Hemsworth with his Australian accent! He also speak Spanish, Russian, Greek, French, Italian and some other ones. I need to meet him to teach him some Portuguese!
I think shouldn’t assume I am MARRIED either! Just because my last name is Smith and I look “foreign”, they assume I am a married woman to some American dude. I am adopted, so my last name is American. I could be wearing a t-shirt that said, “I AM NOT MARRIED” scrawled on it and they would STILL call me “Mrs. Smith” which bugs me to no end!! Hahaha!
Ok. Check it out (the Tom video) and let me know what you think! I gotta go now and eat some tasty cake! Wooo! See ya Ruth!
I was a bit apprehensive in sending you this guest review. Had a very strong feeling that it was not your cup of tea. Though one worthy of discussion.
Thanks for posting it!
Oh of course Jack! Even though it’s not my cup of tea, I still appreciate it as an art form (based on your write-up) and film discussions amongst cinephiles are always welcome!
Btw, did you get my email about another upcoming blogathon on Sidney Pollack? I’d love it if you’d take part on that one and I’d be more than happy to host it 😀
Welcome, Java Girl!
Thank you very much.
I do not know what your sensibilities are and would suggest approaching Steig Larsen’s novel with a caveat and grain of salt. And the ability to put the novel aside should it make you uncomfortable.
Though as adaptions go. The film stays very true to the author’s written words.
Hope to see you drop by more often.
Thank you, you’re very kind. I hope to see this film soon over the summer. 🙂
Outstanding write-up Jack. This is an absolutely superb movie. I watched all three back-to-back a few years ago and I got totally embroiled in them. The second and third pail in comparison bit still a great trilogy. This one is definitely the highlight, though.
Thanks very much!
Watching the trilogy in one sitting is about the only way to appreciate each of the stories. And the first is superior to the preceding stories. In character introduction, background and just plain, old fashioned spinning a yarn.
The second film splits its attention between Lisbeth, Mikael and slowly uncovering the tale of and persona of Lisbeth’s father. And is, I think the most off putting.
While the last surrounds the trial of Lisbeth and the crimes she’d been framed for. The cover up of her father’s crimes and payback for those who had abused her as a child and beyond.
Yeah, as is normally the case in trilogies, the mid-section serves as a mere stepping stone to the overall conclusion. I enjoyed the follow up but it suffers from having no real beginning or end and a change of director doesn’t always help either. This is a small gripe, though, as the trilogy is still a work of class.
Great look at this one, Jack. This is an impressive film with a very brave performance from Noomi Rapace. Nice to see her get some major Hollywood roles since then. Also enjoyed Rooney Mara’s take as Lisbeth in the remake, but I think overall I may prefer the original. What did you think of the sequels?
This film broke a few rules for the better. For presenting a not much thought about topic in an adult manner that does not make light or insult the audience’s intelligence.
There’s something about Ms. Rapace’s often close up, non blinking gaze and eyes that lets you glimpse the demons and anguish behind them that Ms. Mara lacked.Both are exceptional performance, though Ms. Rapace seemed to reach a bit deeper.
The sequels are remarkable in their own rights. Though Lisbeth does take a kind of back seat to unraveling and revealing her sickening, disgusting father. And the lengths some may go to protect him. While the final tale shows the ease in corruption and abuse of power(s) that can be brought upon a young girl.
The three films taken separately, or as a whole represent some of the finest work of 2009! If not for stepping outside the safe and comfortable box. Then for spending a small budget frugally and exceptionally well.
After seeing the original I couldn’t even make it through Fincher’s version. While well done it was just more of the same… just like the remake of Let The Right One In. A really solid trilogy overall and a real find in Noomi Rapace. It was hard to watch Rooney Mara in the same role as she paled in comparison. I didn’t think she pulled it off personally. She brought too much baggage where Noomi was an unknown at the time.
I was wondering when you’d drop by.
Excellent comment and points!
Mr. Rapace was the definite find in this and its following films! Wearing her tortured soul for all to see. While being so natural and at ease within her own and character’s skin. A rare combination that only some can pull off. Definite “First Impressions by Second Stringers” material!
Also preferred Nyqvist’s Blomkvist to Daniel Craig’s. There was a sadness in Nyqvist’s eyes that was missing in Craig’s. Even if it was amusing and admirable for Craig to tackle such a non-Craig or James Bond role.
Still trying to read the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo books before I see the films. Sounds pretty good though.
Reading the book(s) first is almost always the better, more memorable experience. Though Oplev’s take on it is pretty darn good as well.
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