THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Dir. Niels Arden Oplev, 2009)
Now making its way through the states, this stylish Swedish thriller based on the bestselling novel by Stieg Larsson, was the top grossing European film of last year.
With its effective and engrossing pacing, it's easy to see why. Michael Nyqvist stars as a financial magazine reporter who accepts an intriguing job offer to investigate a 40 year old disappearance right after he loses a libel suit against a corrupt industrial magnate (Stefan Sauk).
The missing person is a young girl - the great niece of Henrik Vanger played by the contrite Sven-Bertil Taube, a wealthy businessman highly suspicious of the dark ties in his family to the Nazi party. "
Who do you suspect?" Nyqvist asks Taube on a walk through his island estate. "Nobody. And everybody. That's where you come into the picture."
Taube replies in an appropriately hushed tone. Meanwhile, the title's namesake - a punk attired woman in her early 20's, Noomi Rapace, has been hacking into Nyqvist's computer doing her own parallel investigation. She is able to break down a code in the missing girl's journal and she emails it to him.
He tracks her down and before you know they are working together on the case - studying photographs, going through old records, and bit by bit piecing together the sordid murder puzzle that leads down more than one twisted path.
Rapace has a mysterious unspoken past involving crimes and mental institutions that have obviously toughened her up - her revenge against a sexually abusive appointed guardian (Peter Andersson) shows us this in disturbing detail.
The elaborate dragon tattoo on her back isn't really significant except as an identifier; indeed the film's international title is MILLENIUM: PART I - MEN WHO HATE WOMEN. Though the serial killer procedural threatens to drag the film down a bit, it's tightly wound and crisply presented with gorgeous cinematography and a spare gently chilling soundtrack.
Don't expect a Swedish SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (it has a much higher plausibility factor as thrillers go) and don't fret over subtitles - THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is great gripping, albeit a bit violent, cinema that deserves your attention.