So, the last time I watched a Swedish film for this blog was way back on February 10th, a mere three days after my blog was formed. The film was the cult classic, Let the Right One In, a movie I still consider to be the greatest horror film since The Exorcist. While I have watched a fairly vast amount of foreign cinema since then, it’s still taken me ten months to get back to a movie from the homeland of film legend Ingmar Bergman. The particular film I just watched, 2009’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, isn’t actually on my master list for this blog. Instead, it’s a movie I chose to watch because much like the Twilight franchise, Swedish author Stieg Larrson’s Millennium Trilogy (finished right before his death) has developed a considerable cult following over the last several years, and one of my favorite directors of the last 20 years, David Fincher, is set to adapt a live-action English version of the novels starring current James Bond, Daniel Craig. Because I’m one of those pretentious assholes who has to see the original foreign version of any American film I watch, I found myself surfing the content of Netflix’s watch instantly service, saw this movie, and thought “What the hell? It’s time I watched this.”Since most of my friends who have read these are college students and/or high schoolers, I was expecting a fairly tame young adult hacker story (based off the plot review). Instead, I got an incredibly disturbing tale involving rape, nazis, serial killers, and lots of sex. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a dark and gritty crime thriller and I only wish the main story had as much substance and weight as the directorial stylings and the leads’ performances.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo begins with Mikael Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist), an investigative journalist, being sentenced to jail for libel after being framed by a major industrialist he was investigating for gun-running and corporate fraud. Since he has six months before he has to serve his sentence, Blomqvist takes a job offer from a wealthy businessman named Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance and possible murder of his 16 year old niece, nearly 40 years ago. During all of this, we are introduced to a rebellious but resourceful young hacker named Lisbeth Salander, who looks like something out of a goth/punk handbook. Shown to be in the care of government appointed guardians (initially for undisclosed reasons), Lisbeth does research and info gathering for a security firm while facing the sexual assaults of her newly appointed caretaker. When the company she is hired by investigates Blomqvist, Lisbeth finds herself intrigued by Blomqvist’s investigation of the Varger case, and before long, the two team up on a mystery that will sprawl into a decades long case of religiously motivated serial killings and the dark secrets that a family would rather keep private.

This movie was so difficult to watch at times that I, a film veteran who has seen far more than his fair share of disturbing events on screen, still had to turn my head away at times. This film is most certainly not for kids as there are incredibly graphic displays of sexual assault (and regular consensual sex). The film doesn’t shy away from those moments in the slightest, and if it doesn’t make you unbearably uncomfortable on at least three different occasions, you are a broken human being. It can be shockingly violent and I’m very happy that David Fincher is the individual making the American version of this film, because he’s the only American director I would trust to handle this material right without it slipping into the realm of exploitation cinema. It’s only in these themes of violence or disturbing sexuality though that I find the film attempting to be anything other than a conventional and straight forward adaptation of Larrson’s novel. For the most part, the film is shot in a very standard manner, and it’s only in the most shocking and terrifying moments that the director lets slip a bit of real artistry that scratches past the surface of just the action occurring on screen.

Noomi Rapace was expertly cast in the role of Lisbeth. She fully inhabits this part. Lisbeth is an especially complex part. Mostly because she is nigh inscrutable for the first 3/4 of the film and only a little more understandable at the film’s end. She is one of the most aggressive definitions of a female anti-hero that I’ve seen since the Bride in Kill Bill. Lisbeth is the anti-Bella Swan. Rather than being a helpless victim that relies on others to save her from dangerous situations, she takes charge herself and goes to shocking and brutal lengths to exact revenge. She does some things in this tale as disturbing as what is done to her. Rapace’s performance perfectly nails the mysterious and enigmatic nature of Lisbeth’s personality while simultaneously providing those moments where her armor cracks for a second and we get to see a little bit more than the image she so carefully portrays to the world. Michael Nyqvist was also well cast as Mikael Blomqvist even though his part carried considerably less weight than that of Lisbeth. I’m excited to see Daniel Craig in this part because if anyone has been able to nail moral ambiguity in starring lead roles, it’s been Daniel Craig’s incarnation of James Bond.

The film does have its considerable share of flaws. At two and a half hours, it is far too long and the end runs on a good twenty minutes more than it should have. The actual investigation at the heart of the story is almost incomprehensible and involves such leaps of logic and unfollowable investigative techniques that I eventually started to half pay attention to that aspect of the story because the chemistry between Rapace and Nyqvist as well as those moments when the film truly tried to shock are what carried it to its most memorable moments. I’m definitely going to watch the two sequels, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, at some point in the near future, but that will probably have to wait til I’m a little more caught up with my blogging. Ever since Skyrim came out, it’s consumed 80% of my free time. I’m nearing (if I haven’t already surpassed) the 100 hour mark in time invested in that game and it’s only been out for a few weeks. Anyways, for anyone that’s a fan of crime thrillers and foreign movies, this is definitely a must see feature that should get you excited for how the material will be handled by the masterful David Fincher.

Final Score: B+