IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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Ever since I introduced the poll that lets fine people like you chime in on which movie gets 'the treatment' every week, one film has consistently and patiently waited its turn. I knew of its existence, heard it was extremely well-done and of interest for many reasons, including the fact it's an adaptation of a novel. It finally won this past week, and I sat down to watch it last night with little to go on save knowledge of its long-form fiction origins, the sentiment that its plot is difficult to encapsulate (which it is, I only got my synopsis down after a half-dozen attempts), the touting of its female lead and the warning that this movie is long. At two and a half hours, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo certainly devours your evening, but considering that I was never bored, always intrigued and eager to find out what happened next, I'd call it an evening well-spent.

Courtesy Music Box Pictures

The story begins with the conviction of Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist accused of libel by a powerful industrialist. While Blomkvist suspects he was framed, he knows he can't fight the industrialist's legal team alone and resigns himself to spending some time in jail. Before his sentence begins, however, he is contacted by the reclusive patron of a powerful family living on an island off the coast. The old man's neice, his favorite girl, has been missing for 40 years and he wants Blomkvist to find her. Blomkvist finds himself drawn into a tangled web of tense relations and dark secrets, but he doesn't start putting the pieces together until he gets a tip from a girl who's been hacking his laptop - the girl with the dragon tattoo.

The novel upon which the film is based was originally titled Men Who Hate Women. It's a dark story, superficially reminiscent of thrillers like Silence of the Lambs and Seven, or crime dramas like L.A. Confidential or Mulholland Drive. Moreover, the notion of a crime in a remote location with a limited number of suspects with intricate connections is evocative of even older dramas, those penned by Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Despite the prevelance of computer hacking and other modern trappings, there's something seriously old-school about this yarn. Not many movies these days make a character going through old non-digital archives a gripping scene.

Courtesy Music Box Pictures
Not your typical heroes.

While we're on the subject of characters, the emphasis on their reality and dimensionality is clear. The protagonists are never invincible and the antagonists are never cartoonish. Conclusions are reached and actions are taken for reasons that are not contrived or convenient. It keeps the story very grounded and surprisingly immersive. You lose yourself quickly in these peoples' lives, especially when it comes to Blomkvist and Lisbeth. Blomkvist is a decent guy with a good head on his shoulders and a deep hunger for the truth that lies at the heart of any good and true journalist, but while he's the gateway into the story, he's definitely not its star.

The girl of the title, Lisbeth Salander, is a haunted, driven, asocial and violently independant young woman. Her actions, attitude and outlook are informed by a past that has lead her into being kicked around by the mental health and social authority systems. Being told who to be and how to act for years has left Lisbeth fiercely determined to make her own way. Actress Noomi Rapace never throttles back on Lisbeth's intensity. Everything she does, every move she makes, has determination and purpose. Despite the tendency for the older gentlemen in thrillers and dramas to play chess with the lives of others, at this table, Lisbeth is Bobby Fischer and most other people aren't sure of how the knight is supposed to move.

Courtesy Music Box Pictures
As much as I like Wonder Woman, Lisbeth's a much more interesting "heroine."
(Anti-heroine?)

Something that struck me as odd is that this movie seems to be completely uninterested in the gravity of its own subject matter. It's taking on things like misogyny, child abuse, indoctrination and rape but it never does so to the point of belaboring or dwelling overmuch on the matters. These things just happen, and the characters need to deal with them. It's a slow burner, in that scenes take time to set up and pay off but never fall into the realm of uninteresting exposition. It's detailed and meticulous, never taking our intelligence for granted. It might not have been necessary to go into as much depth as it does initially setting up the backgrounds and underlying motivations of the duo tackling this bizzare and ultimately disturbing case, but I feel this decision was rooted in the source material. I haven't read any of Stieg Larsson's work, but I get the impression the filmmakers were as faithful to the novel as possible. I really can't fault them for that, but I'm also aware that not everything in a novel is necessary for a story on film to work.

The foundation of this film and its success, however, isn't just the late novelist's work, it's the reality of its characters, settings and situations. From the way Blomkvist looks and behaves to the fact that Lisbeth uses a Mac with software we recognize instead of some sort of magic device as computers are often seen in American media, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tells its story without hyperbole or hooplah. It's not overtly romanticized or saddled with trying to fit into a particular genre for convenient marketing. It's straightforward storytelling driven by characters that are well-rounded in their writing and excellently portrayed by their actors. Available via Netflix's instant service, I'd recommend this for any fan of crime drama, good character development or foreign films. And you should definitely see this version if you're a fan of the novels, because Hollywood has gotten their claws on it and are making their own version. I expect it's going to have more beautiful people, more bombastic music and more telegraphed dialog in it, but I'll try not to hate it on principle. Other Americans have the hate market cornered and I really don't want to step on their toes. They have guns.

Josh Loomis can't always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it's unclear if this week's film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain... IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

I kept seeing this and wondering if I should watch it. I'm still on the fence, but thanks for the info.

Wouldn't mind seeing the film, read the book recently and while it's not a genre I would usually read I loved every second of it.

I heard they were making an English film though with Daniel Craig playing the lead as Blomkvist and someone who I can't remember the name of playing Lisbeth both of which I think look better as the leads, the swedish Blomkvist and Lisbeth both had a lot harder looking faces than how I pictured them in the book, but then again that is just my opinion.

EDIT: Lisbeth Slander will be played by Rooney Mara. Who is in the new film about Facebook and the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street (Which was terrible) Thank Slaanesh for IMDB :P

It's a great movie, but not as good as the book. It manages to focus on the mystery plot, but they completely missed out on the relationships be between the main characters (which was only touched on) and between Blomkvist and Erika which was central to the trilogy as a whole. On the other hand, if that was in the running time would have been much too long.

I was really surprised when I heard how popular this movie had gotten over the world.

See, in Sweden, we only have two types of films. Crime dramas, and quirky down-to-earth family comedies. Since the comedies suck something fierce, the only Swedish film that get released nowadays that are any good are crime dramas (WHY DID YOU LEAVE US, BERGMAN!? WHY!?)

So when I saw that this film was coming out, my reaction was simply "Meh. It looks exactly like Wallander, Beck, and all those other crime drama films we have out".

Apparently the world enjoys crime dramas more than I do. Nobody I knew was really all that exited for this film when it came out, since in our eyes it's just another crime drama.

Fascinating how something that was met with such apathy from many Swedes got so renowned over the world.

Great review there, Josh. Keep em' coming. If you review another Swedish film though, stay away from the comedies. They suck.

Ass.

I've read the book (was okay, verging on sadomasochistic erotic fiction) and from the pictures you've provided it seems that they haven't made Lisbeth someone who is different and unique, instead they've made her "different" and "unique". May be different in the film but it's disheartening from here.

I just read the first book in the series and it was good, excellent for a first written novel. I'll check out the film sometime.

Best book series I've read in a long time, looking forward to seeing it in english though, I spent too much time reading the subtitles for Dragon Tattoo, missed too much of the beautiful Noomi Rapace.

Hubilub:
I was really surprised when I heard how popular this movie had gotten over the world.

See, in Sweden, we only have two types of films. Crime dramas, and quirky down-to-earth family comedies. Since the comedies suck something fierce, the only Swedish film that get released nowadays that are any good are crime dramas (WHY DID YOU LEAVE US, BERGMAN!? WHY!?)

So when I saw that this film was coming out, my reaction was simply "Meh. It looks exactly like Wallander, Beck, and all those other crime drama films we have out".

Apparently the world enjoys crime dramas more than I do. Nobody I knew was really all that exited for this film when it came out, since in our eyes it's just another crime drama.

Fascinating how something that was met with such apathy from many Swedes got so renowned over the world.

Great review there, Josh. Keep em' coming. If you review another Swedish film though, stay away from the comedies. They suck.

Ass.

Well yeah, you Swedes got something for all those gritty dark crime stories. Must be the cold climate up there in the north, but what differs Larsson's story from Wallander and the likes is that the real protagonist of the series is the strong female while the male character itself is more of a sidekick in her cruel revenge.

Also the fact that Stieg happened to die just moments after delivering his books to the publisher adds to the whole deal. IT almost seemed like he wanted to prove to the world that artists only get recognition post mortem, which would go along with his lefty, anarchistic background.

Fear not tho, as apparently after the Millennium trilogy the south African crime stories are starting to get popular in the world with their much lighter tone and warmer sceneries, so maybe they'll leave us alone... or force your writers to write even more of dark gritty crime stories <.<

Keava:

Hubilub:
I was really surprised when I heard how popular this movie had gotten over the world.

See, in Sweden, we only have two types of films. Crime dramas, and quirky down-to-earth family comedies. Since the comedies suck something fierce, the only Swedish film that get released nowadays that are any good are crime dramas (WHY DID YOU LEAVE US, BERGMAN!? WHY!?)

So when I saw that this film was coming out, my reaction was simply "Meh. It looks exactly like Wallander, Beck, and all those other crime drama films we have out".

Apparently the world enjoys crime dramas more than I do. Nobody I knew was really all that exited for this film when it came out, since in our eyes it's just another crime drama.

Fascinating how something that was met with such apathy from many Swedes got so renowned over the world.

Great review there, Josh. Keep em' coming. If you review another Swedish film though, stay away from the comedies. They suck.

Ass.

Well yeah, you Swedes got something for all those gritty dark crime stories. Must be the cold climate up there in the north, but what differs Larsson's story from Wallander and the likes is that the real protagonist of the series is the strong female while the male character itself is more of a sidekick in her cruel revenge.

Also the fact that Stieg happened to die just moments after delivering his books to the publisher adds to the whole deal. IT almost seemed like he wanted to prove to the world that artists only get recognition post mortem, which would go along with his lefty, anarchistic background.

Fear not tho, as apparently after the Millennium trilogy the south African crime stories are starting to get popular in the world with their much lighter tone and warmer sceneries, so maybe they'll leave us alone... or force your writers to write even more of dark gritty crime stories <.<

Actually, we've had gritty crime dramas with female leads since the 80s about female cop Irene Huss. She got her first film about her in 2007, 2 years before the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

And Swedish writers will never stop being gritty. Not as long as Jan Guillou is still writing books.

You wanna see something gritty, you see the movie adaption of his book "Evil".

Actually, Josh, review that one! Review Evil! Every single 15 year old Swedish student has been forced to read or watch that bloody thing, now you must share our pain!

Trailorz:

Not actually sure how the poll works, so forgive me if I am being too demanding. (It would certainly not be the first time)

Hubilub:

Actually, we've had gritty crime dramas with female leads since the 80s about female cop Irene Huss. She got her first film about her in 2007, 2 years before the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

And Swedish writers will never stop being gritty. Not as long as Jan Guillou is still writing books.

You wanna see something gritty, you see the movie adaption of his book "Evil".

Actually, Josh, review that one! Review Evil! Every single 15 year old Swedish student has been forced to read or watch that bloody thing, now you must share our pain!

Female lead is one thing, but the way Larsson portrayed Lisbeth is a bit different from your generic female lead. She's angsty, cruel and incarnation of every raging feminist wet dream so it apparently means she's consider 'hawt' by the male part of the population. Something like Angelina Jolie being the dream of every lipstick lesbian out there.

Im guessing the reason for all such books and movies must be somewhere in the Baltic Sea, maybe that's where Cthulhu rests. Polish films are usually also pretty depressing and gritty, just less in the crime genre and focusing more on social drama and relationships with issues.

I fell asleep 30 minutes into it. I do want to watch it but it seems to drag ass. Perhaps starting it at midnight is not the best laid plan.

Its a decent enough film, but I think you do really have to read the book first, just so you know whats going on sometimes.

It was a movie that surprised me, to say in the least.

 

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