I'm not sure what to make of Niels Arden Oplev's highly-touted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Despite a feverish amount of publicity for the Swedish thriller based on Stieg Larsson's best-selling novel, its film adaptation doesn't quite hit the mark.
Shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist is sentenced to prison after being framed in a Libel case. Before he serves his sentence though, wealthy Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) enlists his help to solve a 40 year-old mystery involving the disappearance of his beloved niece Harriet, who happened to babysit Mikael as a child. He however, is being watched by 24 year-old computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) who becomes obsessed with wanting to help him while he is in exile. She reaches out to help Mikael finally, holding key evidence which proves that he in fact innocent of the crime for which he had been convicted.
While staying with Henrik, Mikael learns of the Vanger family's sordid and secretive past. Henrik is certain that his niece was murdered by someone in his family but he does not know who. Piece by piece, Mikael begins to place this puzzle together using Harriet's diary, archived photos and his own intuition, but it is only after Lisbeth enters the picture that real progress is made.
Mysterious Lisbeth is not without some secrets of her own. She undergoes every type of abuse possible, including a brutal rape scene. We know only that she has something of a dark past which has resulted in her not being allowed control over her own finances as an adult. She develops an emotional bond with Mikael, but alas, is never fully able to trust men based on her past traumas. Nonetheless, she inexplicably is compelled to help Mikael and together they unveil some shocking clues to a string of unsolved murders that took place over the span of the past 40 years throughout Sweden. At this point, danger is imminent as they realize they both are being watched by someone closer to home than they originally had believed.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is definitely not for the weak-hearted. It is heavy, extreme and graphic, albeit fairly effective in engaging its audience. It never gives itself away until it is fitting to do so late in the story. Be forewarned though that a man gets raped with a Vibrator and that some of the images (i.e. asphyxiated corpses) are haunting.
Although the film's stars Nyqvist and Rapace lack any real chemistry in their on-screen pairing, this story is gripping enough to overlook that. Legendary Swedish actress Ewa Fröling gets very little screen time, but manages to steal the show completely in her role, making for a rewarding moment after the audience is forced to endure twists and turns by the many. The film ends off on a rather ridiculous note, which drew laughter from the audience at the screening I attended, but a full restoring of order is achieved at long last after witnessing the hero and heroine's undue torture for most of the film. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is now in limited release via Alliance Films in Canada and it may or may not be your thing judging by the good number of people who walked out of my screening. Grade: B-