Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Peter Haber, Ewa Froling, Lena Endre

Director: Niels Arden Opley

Writer: Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg, Stieg Larsson (novel)

Cinematography: Jens Fischer

Original Score: Jacob Groth

Running Time: 152 mins.

What with Let the Right One In and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the first in the already shot trilogy based on Stieg Larsson’s critically acclaimed novels, Sweden is seeing something of a high-profile boost in the international market, with good reason for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is one hell of a film, the likes of which rarely find their way out of Hollywood, in fact I would put it on a par with The Silence of the Lambs and David Fincher’s Seven (who is incidentally being lined up to direct the inevitable US remake) in the serial killer thriller stakes, because where those films transcended the boundaries of that genre so too does this.

Opening with a court case that finds Michael Nyqvist’s investigative journalist, Mikael, (wrongly?) guilty of corruption he follows up a cryptic lead that takes him to an offshore town where a 40 year old murder mystery is hoisted upon him by the head of a large and corrupt family business, as this occurs we see a the titular girl, a professional hacker named Lisbeth (Rapace), meet abuse at the hands of her guardian, some time later and the two characters make up the chalk and cheese team that uncover many mysteries on the path to discovering what happened to the missing girl and catching a serial killer in the process.

Writ in this way The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn’t sound particularly exemplary, no more so than say The Bone Collector or any number of Hollywood by the numbers thrillers. But the key to this film’s success is in its perfect combination of elements that make it a thoroughly involving experience.Anchored by Nyqvist and Rapace’s performances we really get to know these characters, the plot allows for us to both discover who these people are, what drives them and what their frailties are whilst furthering story in a unhurried but never slow way.

Lisbeth is clearly a complex character, more obviously so than Mikael, with her gothic looks, all piercings and tattoos, and the damaged persona that demonstrates her strength that just about holds her from cracking. In the scenes where she is tormented by her guardian, that hint at further misery in her past, there is a authenticity that makes the scenes almost unbearable through the impeccable acting, even if Lisbeth’s tormentor is a little pantomime-like. As Lisbeth begins to show a softer side by way of her relationship with Mikael there still lay the underlying issues in her past, that while never fully revealed hint at excellent jumping points for the next films in the trilogy.

As with this months Shutter Island atmosphere is everything and, also like Scorsese’s film, is largely set on the island that becomes a deeply foreboding place, all foggy woods and high cliff set houses that wouldn’t look amiss in a horror film. It’s here that most of the action takes place and as Lisbeth and Mikael edge ever closer to uncovering the truth’s they have sought the tension builds, yet we are always invested in the characters whilst still learning who they are, masterfully the story is wound up in a truly satisfying yet un-cloying way while leaving the perfect set up for future films, as you yearn to spend more time getting to know Lisbeth and Mikael.

VERDICT

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo presents us with a gripping and involving thriller, whilst at once taking time to introduce and familiarise us with two of the most interesting characters of the year, never out-staying its welcome and wrapping up one strand while making us yearn for more of another. The perfect opener to what looks set to be an excellent trilogy.

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