For some inexplicable reason I had missed all the screenings at the 2009 Tokyo International Film Festival when this film had its run there. Thankfully it has made it to Singapore. Based upon the novel by the late Stieg Larsson, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of those films that is crafted superbly enough for Hollywood to take notice and want to toss it on the remake gravy train. Daniel Craig has been attached to star, and you will understand why David Fincher has been appointed director of the upcoming Hollywood version, because the mystery in this film is something right up Fincher's alley, and I felt cutting close to his Zodiac at times as well. But why settle for a remake when you can now watch the original?
Niels Arden Oplev directed a sprawling introduction to the world of the titular computer hacker known as Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), as well as that of an investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who's waiting to serve time for his supposedly libelous Millennium magazine article on an influential industrialist. We follow separate narrative threads that introduce both main characters and the challenges they face in their lives, one with a jail term looming, while the other having to surrender to the whims and fancies of her parole officer who's out to look for sexual favours in exchange for lenient reports.
But of course our spunky Lisbeth is more than that damsel in distress. Noomi Rapace gives her plenty of attitude as she takes charge of situations, never cowing away from fisticuffs should the need arise, and posseses enough mean streak in her by way of a grunge punk rock look to wonder why such inner high walls built to shield herself from the injustices that she had suffered. Michael Nygvist's Mikael also isn't our typical alpha-male, and is more the down to earth type of hero who relies on his wit, written word and networking abilities to see him through a paid assignment by a tycoon to track down his missing niece.
The narrative takes some time to warm up, and when it finally does, everything careens at full speed, with the investigators coming together to pool resources and smarts in solving a 40 year old mystery. The two and a half hours seemed to be compressed, with Oplev demonstrating a measured yet intense grip on how the proceedings of the story will unfold, with bit by bit revelations becoming the hook to draw you into the mystery. In some ways, the story may resemble in part to that of Murder of the Inugami Clan, where an extended family comes filled with relatively bizarre characters each hiding little secrets that threaten to explode, and each contributing a step closer to the truth.
While Oplev designs a mystery thriller, there are some tools of the trade used in horror films that get employed to great effect here as well, especially the build up of anticipation where the dynamic duo begin to get close to fishing out results, with nicely done interplay between light and shadow, and jump cuts even that worked to keep you at the edge of your seat. You'll find yourself inevitably attracted to the plight of the characters and will invest enough emotions that will root for, and desire that they emerge unscathed from an investigations that seem to scream Trouble and Danger.
There are the follow up Swedish films in Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, inclusive of this installment already released so far outside of Singapore, and hopefully we'll get to see the other two hit our shores soon enough. This one's left uncut, so all the nudity and graphic, gruesome stills were intact, in which the latter can be a little bit unsettling. But don't let that put you off from an engaging mystery, and finally you can watch something the world out there has been raving about! Recommended!
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo premieres on 12 Aug 2010!