Friday, December 16, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009 film)

Based on Stieg Larsson’s novel, Man som hatar kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is the story of a journalist trying to solve an unsolved murder more than 35 years ago for a billionaire. The journalist hires a researcher who aids him in the investigation that leads more troubles and intrigue to find out who killed this young girl. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev and script adaptation by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg, the film is the first part of a trilogy of films relating Larsson’s novels known as the Millennium Trilogy. Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber, Lena Endre, Bjorn Granath, Ingvar Hirdwall, and Peter Andersson. Man som hatar kvinnor is a gripping and stylish thriller from Niels Arden Oplev.

After being disgraced for accusations against billionaire financier in Hans-Erik Wennerstrom (Stefan Sauk) and set to serve time in prison, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is asked by another billionaire in Vanger Corporation head Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) to investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet (Julia Sporre) nearly 40 years ago that Mikael knew as a child. Henrik reveals that he has received another framed flower thinking it’s from her killer as Mikael decides to take part of the investigation before his incarceration. Meanwhile, a 24-year old hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has continually been hacking into Mikael’s computer while dealing with the fact that her finances are in the control of her new guardian in sadistic lawyer Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson).

At the Vanger estate, Mikael meets Harriet’s brother Martin (Peter Haber) and their cousin Cecilia (Marika Lagercrantz) to know more about the Vanger family as they all remain quite secretive. While looking at the pictures of Harriet during a Children’s Day parade in 1966, he notices something in the picture where Harriet was looking at someone while a couple behind her had taken photos behind her. When Henrik Vanger suffers a heart attack, Vanger’s lawyer Dirch Frode (Ingvar Hirdwall) realizes that Mikael is going to need more help in the investigation as Mikael received an email from Lisbeth about the secret codes found in Harriet’s copy of the Bible. Lisbeth and Mikael team up as the two uncover something much bigger relating to the deaths of women back in 1949.

Thinking that the murders are all connected to some form of anti-Semitism since Harriet’s father and a couple of her uncles were part of the Nazi supporters. They realize that Harriet must’ve discovered something and was probably killed for it as Mikael and Lisbeth grow close together as they discovered that one of the women killed had worked for Harriet’s uncle Harald (Gosta Bredefeldt) whom Mikael believed was the one shooting at him. Believing that he might be the killer, the two decide to uncover Harald’s traveling records where a discovery is made about these deaths and what happened to Harriet.

The film is about a man and an odd yet troubled girl trying to catch a killer for an ailing old man that has happened some 35 years ago. During this journey, the journalist and researcher embark into a dark world of murders and secrets that involve the disappearance of this young girl and the secrets of this girl’s family. Throughout the entirety of the film, there’s character studies not just about the journalist but this unique researcher who has a large dragon tattoo on her back as well as body pierces and is a very aggressive woman with a dark past. The two become an unlikely pair in their investigation where they eventually become unconventional lovers to the dismay of the Vanger family.

The film’s script by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg is quite unconventional for the way the story is told. The first half has a very unique narrative that cross-cuts between the differing worlds of Mikael and Lisbeth where the latter is still surveying his files by hacking into his computer. Mikael is a once-respected journalist whose career is shattered due to a story where accuses a billionaire stealing money as he’s been found guilty for libel. In taking this job for a man that is in search for the disappearance of his beloved niece, it gives Mikael the chance to restore his damaged reputation as he later gets more than he bargains for.

Then there’s this strange young woman who is a professional hacker but prefers to be on her own with a laptop while not wanting to take shit from anyone. Still, her finances are handled by guardians who take care of her due to her own troubled past where she has to endure the cruel abuse of a sadistic lawyer. Yet, she always finds a way to deal with things as in her interest towards Mikael’s report about this missing young girl. She would become an unlikely help to his investigation where the two become this unique pair despite their differences and an unlikely sexual attraction.

The script’s second half is about the investigation and the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael where they would uncover about what happened to this girl but who did these mysterious killings. It’s a mystery and thriller that takes its time to figure out what really happened and why it took such a long time for the investigation to unfold as a retired investigator (Bjorn Granath) would later help out uncovering the mystery.

Niels Arden Oplev’s direction is very entrancing to the way he presents the film with lots of wide shots of the various locations in Sweden including stylish compositions such as Lisbeth’s confrontation against Bjurman. The film, like a lot of thrillers, takes its time to set-up the characters and the mystery that surrounds the film. Over the course, clues start to appear little by little as Oplev creates dissolving montages of both Lisbeth and Mikael going over the investigation as computers play big parts to the film. The sense of style along with very straightforward compositions of intimate scenes including intense shots of Lisbeth in her motorcycle gives the film an edge that isn’t like a lot of thrillers. Overall, Oplev creates a truly smart and harrowing thriller that doesn’t go for conventions.

Cinematographer Eric Kress does an excellent job with the film‘s cinematography where a lot of the island exterior scenes and flashback scenes as it features a somewhat de-saturated look for its sunny colors while a lot of the nighttime exteriors and interiors are more stylish and eerie to enhance the film’s mood. Editor Anne Osterud does a wonderful job with the editing in creating stylish dissolve montages for some of the scenes involving computers along with a few fade-outs to help move the story forward. Production designer Niels Sejer does a superb job with the set pieces created such as Martin‘s posh home and the framed flowers that Henrik keeps getting.

Costume designer Cilla Rorby does a fantastic job with the stylish 60s clothes some of the characters wear for the flashback scenes and pictures along with the more punk-Goth look of Lisbeth. Visual effects supervisor Tor-Bjorn Olsson does a nice job with minimal visual effects scene used such as some of the intense action scenes in the film such as Lisbeth‘s motorcycle chase. Sound designer Peter Schultz does a brilliant job with the sound work to complement the natural sounds of the forest locations to the engine rev of Lisbeth’s motorcycle. The film’s orchestral score by Jacob Groth is very good as it features a smooth but heavy theme to play up the suspense and drama that unfolds throughout the film.

The casting by Tusse Lande is terrific for the ensemble cast that is created that includes appearances from Lena Endre as Mikael’s former lover/editor Erika Berger, Michalis Koutsogiannakis as security officer Dragan, Stefan Sauk as the billionaire Mikael tries to target early in the film, Tomas Kholer as Lisbeth’s fellow hacker friend Plague, Gosta Bredefeldt as Henrik’s reclusive brother Harald, Marika Langercrantz’s as Henrik’s niece Cecilia, and Julia Sporre as Henrik’s missing niece Harriet. Other notable supporting roles include Bjorn Granath as retired police investigator Morell who helps Lisbeth and Mikael in filling in clues for the investigation along with Ingvar Hirdwall as Henrik’s lawyer/Lisbeth’s boss Dirch Frode.

Peter Haber is wonderful as Harriet’s charming brother Martin while Peter Andersson is brilliant in a dark, creepy role as Lisbeth’s new guardian in the sadistic Nils Bjurman. Sven-Bertil Taube is excellent as Henrik Langer, an aging billionaire who asks Mikael’s help in the investigation while dealing with his own health issues. Michael Nyqvist is great as the journalist Mikael Blomkvist who leads the investigation into finding out this girl while dealing with the fact that he’s been disgraced as he faces a new, dark challenge. Finally, there’s Noomi Rapace in a phenomenal role as Lisbeth Salander with her fiery attitude and calm persona in the way she uncovers codes and figure things out better than most people. It’s a real breakthrough role for the Swedish actress as she has great chemistry with Nyqvist while proving to be a truly intense character that isn’t afraid to play a dark yet complex character.

Man som hatar kvinnor is a mesmerizing yet thrilling film from Niels Arden Oplev that features top-notch performances from Noomi Rapace and Michael Nykqvist. The film is definitely a cut above a lot of conventional thrillers for the way it plays out the mystery while taking its time to let the clues be revealed. It’s also film that is very engaging while not willing to be pretty due to the graphic violence that appears in the film. In the end, Man som hatar kvinnor is a superb thriller from Niels Arden Oplev.

Millennium Trilogy (Swedish): (The Girl Who Played with Fire) - (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest)

Millennium Trilogy (U.S.): The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

© thevoid99 2011


s. said...

I thought the story and Noomi were amazing, but the film felt like something made for TV for me. It was thrilling, but mostly because of how great the character of Lisbeth is.
Great review!

thevoid99 said...

Thanks. There is an extended version made for TV that adds an extra 30 minutes. I don't know what is in that but I'm quite fine with this version.

Anonymous said...

Great review, I agree with you about Rapace, she conveys so many sides to the character of Lisbeth.

thevoid99 said...

@vinnieh-Thank you. I think she's somewhat better than Mara though both of them do great work in conveying that character.