Rating: 4 out of 5
Agatha Christie used to be prolific in employing the “locked room mystery” in her crime thrillers. Typically this story technique involves a crime (usually a murder) being committed in a confined area, with no way in or out during the time of the crime, thereby limiting the number of suspects.
Such a storytelling device allows the audience to play detective for themselves, as the murderer is indubitably one of the people present and paradoxically couldn’t have been any one of them. The sense of mystery is heightened and the audience’s interest is inevitably piqued by the puzzle presented.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo takes that concept and raises it to a much grander scale, involving multiple conspiracies and a continent-hopping investigation. Despite its labyrinthian plot, I’ve not seen a murder mystery this headily taut and this intelligently immersive in a very long time.
Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is a disgraced investigative journalist who has just lost a libel case against corrupt Swedish tycoon Hans-Erik Wennerström (Stefan Sauk). After resigning from his job at Millennium magazine, Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), the elderly former head honcho of the Vanger Group, a family dynasty with more secrets than their incalculable wealth.
Blomkvist is tasked with solving the forty-year-old murder of Vanger's sixteen-year-old niece Harriet. Harriet seemingly disappeared when the entire Vagner family was marooned on the family estate located within an inaccessible island (here’s the aforementioned locked-room scenario).
Along the way, Mikael finds an unlikely partner in Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). Salander is an asocial miscreant, a perplexing punk who’s genius as a computer hacker is only matched by her profoundly damaged psyche. Salander (the titular Girl) has been the victim of almost every kind of abuse I can think of, which makes her scarred but never scared.
The plot is much too byzantine to describe in summary but it’s an abstruse web that manages to balance being enigmatic and engrossing. As a crime-thriller, this film is as dexterously plotted and ingeniously crafted as any I’ve ever seen.
Both leads are stellar but Rapace in particular is a revelation. Salander is, on paper, already a complicated character with a richly compelling back story. Great characterisation paired up with a great performance is a very rare thing indeed.
This film is an adaptation of Steig Larrson's first novel in his posthumously published Millennium Trilogy. Apparently his other two books have also been adapted and released as sequels in Sweden featuring the same mismatched detective duo of Blomkvist and Salander.
As it is and taken on its own, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a fantastically intense noir whodunit, soaked in sprawling suspense and unforgettably gruesome imagery. If the sequels are half as gripping as this movie, I eagerly await their releases here.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, aka inSing.com's Movie Lover, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia.
Hidzir is the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.