Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering without trace. Her uncle believes she was murdered by a family member and has been receiving an annual gift of framed flowers from various places around the world. The body has never been found. He employs Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a journalist who has been convicted of slander and is waiting for his prison sentence to start. He is joined by punk computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) when events coincide to bring them together. As they investigate the disappearance, they begin to uncover an appalling family history and their lives are placed in increasing danger.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an incredibly intense, atmospheric crime thriller that is totally engaging with the 2½ hours seeming to go in an instant. The story is superbly developed with the revelation of what is going on at just the right moment.
The standout performance is Noomi Rapace who plays the punk computer hacker, Lisbeth, with great depth and nuance. She is compelling and the personal history and current circumstances of her life are shocking as we learn more about her character's background leading to profound emotional scarring and baggage. Lisbeth is one of the most intriguing, fresh, complex heroines to come along in crime fiction. In fact, the character of Lisbeth Salamander is almost more interesting than the story of the movie itself!
The direction is spot-on with the cold, oppressive Swedish winter providing an apt backdrop to the unfolding events. The music eerily and suspensefully supports the narrative.
I haven't read the book on which this movie is based. But I have to say that, after watching the movie, I'm sorely tempted to do so. The movie is, at times, very hard to watch as much of it is very disturbing — particularly what Lisbeth has to bear to survive her life. One of the core themes of the movie is violence against women and no punches are pulled in representing this. The original Swedish title of the book was "Men Who Hate Women" and is, perhaps, a more apt title for the themes of the story.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the most compelling crime thrillers I've seen in a long time...
'A compelling thriller to begin with, but it adds the rare quality of having a heroine more fascinating than the story.' - Roger Ebert/Chicago Sun-Times
'Though Ms. Rapace is a fine professional scowler, with cheekbones that thrust like knives and a pout that’s mostly pucker, she tends to register as an intriguing idea instead of a thoroughly realized character. She more or less looks the part that the filmmakers don’t let her fully play.' -