The title The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo says precious little about the storyline of this Swedish shock-filled thriller. The original title Män som hatar kvinnor, aka Men Who Hate Women, is much more fitting.
What starts as two separate storylines of a soon-to-be-jailed journalist Mikhael Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist), and a bruised but beautiful computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), both characters quickly become intertwined in a film that contains all the natural ingredients for a good crime thriller: mystery, suspense, sex and violence. But then it takes that step further, and that’s what separates this film from the productions of the Hollywood factory.
As the Swedish title suggests, the story is surrounded by men capable of the worst evils. And these evils they do in graphic detail, which makes for uncomfortable viewing indeed.
But at the centre of the plot of is the good man in Blomqvist . After being misled into writing false allegations, Blomqvist is disgraced and sentenced to prison. But before he serves his sentence he is hired by wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) to search for his niece who has been missing for 40 years.
With nothing to lose, Blomqvist accepts the job and immediately becomes personally attached to the mystery, on account of being minded by the missing girl when he was a child. Blomqvist isn’t exactly a captivating personality; a straight-talking journalist who personifies the stereotype of the “cool-headed” Swede.
Lisbeth Salander’s character on the other hand is much more twisted. At the start she seems like the stereotypical punk: emotionally distant, rebellious, volatile. But memory flashbacks reveal her chilling past, and the present hasn’t been made any better for her. Physically abused in public, blackmailed and brutally raped by her “guardian”; a lewd, revolting character who has control over all her finances; and who has the ability to make your skin crawl from his first scene. Fine acting, but stomach-churning to watch.
The attractive edginess of Lisbeth, along with her disturbed past and ambiguous present, give her an intrigue that you can’t take your eyes off for the duration of the film (2h 32min).
After hacking onto Blomqvist’s computer and then giving him a lead clue in the murder mystery, Lisbeth becomes his co-detective, as well as his somewhat unorthodox lover.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has all the traits to swim into the mainstream of Hollywood, but the scenes of revolting men abusing women; these scenes of perverse violence and vulgarity, are what make this film so much more shocking and explicit than your average American thriller.
The Swedish title, Men Who Hate Women, focuses on the raw, disturbing aspect of the film while the English title, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo pays more attention to the romantic side of it.
The main downside to this film is its length. The guts of the two and a half hours are spent on suspense-building, then about ten different things happen in the final ten minutes, and you can tell the producers struggled to bring the film to a smooth close.
Not a must-see but definitely worth watching; provided you’re not too squeamish.