Friday, June 17, 2011

Movie review: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

This is one INTENSE movie. It's like a CSI-Sweden murder mystery wrapped in several layers of sexual tension and psycho-drama. It is punctuated by scenes of rape and torture that are both difficult to watch and difficult NOT to watch.

Noomi Rapace
The heart and strength of this movie lies in its two main characters, 40-something journalist Mikhael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), and  24-year-old angry computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) – the girl with the dragon tattoo of the title (hmmm, shouldn't it be "The Woman With the Dragon Tattoo?).

They are an odd couple if there ever was one, but they come together to try to solve the 40-year-old disappearance of a 16-year-old girl.

To say that Rapace steals the show is not quite accurate, since Nyqvist holds his own, but her chilling performance is unforgettable. She somehow manages to be scary, sexy and vulnerable all at the same time. 

The movie does run too long – it actually has three endings – and the plot has some minor weaknesses, but the twisting story keeps you guessing and slowly envelops you.

The version of this movie I saw was in Swedish with English subtitles. It says something that while I at first found the subtitles an annoyance, I soon became totally absorbed in the suspense and completely forgot they were speaking Swedish.

This is certainly not a movie for everyone. Besides the jarring rape and torture scenes there are grisly images of dead bodies.While this is rated R, I could easily understand if it got an "NC-17" rating – this is no movie for kids.

As an aside, I must comment on how much I learned about the Swedish criminal system from "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."  At the start of the movie, Blomqvist is convicted of libel and sentenced to prison. In the United States, libel is a civil, not a criminal, matter, so no jail time is possible.

Then, after he's convicted, Blomqvist walks right out of the courtroom and doesn't even have to start his sentence for six months. What the?  Haven't those Swedes watched any U.S. courtroom dramas?  Don't they know the perp is supposed to be hauled away to jail the minute the case ends? 

Finally, when Blomqvist does report to prison, it's not even recognizable as a prison. He has his own room, a computer with Internet access and is free to make out with his girlfriend in the lobby without a burly guard named Bubba breaking them up. Sweet!


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