Posted by: greercn | April 5, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

This movie races along, gripping you from the very first moments. For the first 35 minutes, it is the best film ever. Even after the story goes beyond weird and violent, it remains the best modern detective story I have seen on screen.

Millions of fans of Stieg Larsson’s books will not be disappointed.  They may be a bit puzzled by some of the changes made, but they should still see it, because it is wonderful.  Details are blurred, compressed and twisted. English subtitles with Swedish dialogue didn’t undermine the whole. I am good with languages, but everyone else at the Stratford Picture House’s packed performance seemed equally enthralled. Even the guy with the smelly feet (who made it much worse by removing his boots) stopped bouncing up and down, rocking the whole row of seats, within 10 minutes of the start. It only took me two minutes to shut him out of my range of vision and smell.

Our hero is Mikael Blomkvist, who is asked to investigate the decades-old death of a teenager. His sidekick – boy what a sidekick – is Lisbeth Salander, the “girl” of the title, a proto-punk computer hacker who brings grit, style, skilled research and a nice line in piercings and motorcycling to the role.

In these two pivotal parts, Michael Nykvist and Noomie Rapace shine brightly. Yet, even though her character and performance are the most compelling and visual in the film, there is something distracting in the stereotypes about abused people with mental health issues here. There is a horrible attack. There is a graphic and grisly rape. The murder pictures look pretty real to me and I used to be a crime reporter. Why does all this worry me?

In a less slick and stylish film with a more common message, this violence would turn my stomach. It is integral to the plot here, but the lingering shots still may trouble the squeamish and I am not usually wussy about these things. I think someone has decided to make a Swedish movie that is bound to be grabbed and remade in Hollywood. There is nothing wrong with that, but please don’t let it be cast as Brad and Angelina! Although, I guess that will solve my issue with graphic violence, because it will be airbrushed in that remake.

So, I am having a philosophical discussion with myself about how much violence is okay in a crime thriller, even when it’s European and the sailboat called restraint has long since sailed out of port, never to be seen again. About 10 people left the cinema, but it was unclear whether this was due to the 152-minute length, stomachs being turned or the need for more popcorn. I didn’t look at my watch and I only looked away from the screen twice.  I wanted to know what happened next.

The chase through the past for a murderer rattles the cages of several members of a powerful industrial family. The Swedish countryside is gorgeous, in marked contrast to the violence. If you see another chase scene with a smallish motorcycle chasing a Land Rover, I’ll be very surprised.

All the acting is terrific. The sets glow and the camera work is superb. Most important of all, the story only lets up twice and both allow breathing room for the next fast-paced gallop.You won’t be bored.

See it, comment and let me know what you think. It is a great movie and different from anything else I have ever seen, although it pays loving nods to many detective movie conventions. It’s the closest I have been to my beloved film noir of the 1940s and 1950s.

I want to praise its innovation to the skies and get everyone to see it. But I have reservations and I would love to know why.

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