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Review: 'Tattoo' offers complex story, intense moments

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“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Sven-Bertil Taube
Rated: R

“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is the first film based on the “Millennium Trilogy” series of novels by the late Swedish writer Stieg Larsson.

This first installment - originally titled “Men Who Hate Women” - is a sprawling 608 pages as a book, and the film, while running longer than most, cannot cover all of the intricate details. But it manages to get quite deep into the plot and characters.

It's a complex, and at times confusing, film - being in Swedish with English subtitles adds to the demand placed on the viewer. It's also a compelling mystery with a fascinating title character. It stands on its own as an original piece of work, yet it brings to mind elements from films such as “La Femme Nikita,” “The Parallax View” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”  

The girl in the title is Lisbeth Salander, played with a fiery intensity and numerous body piercings (and yes, a dragon tattoo) by Noomi Rapace. Rapace is somewhat of a method actor and reportedly spent seven months preparing for the role. And she BECAME Lisbeth.

While she is the title character, she's not necessarily the main character.

That is Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), an investigative journalist who has been convicted of libel of a Swedish tycoon. He has six months to get his affairs in order before serving his brief sentence. He's been disgraced and the magazine he runs has all but gone bust. So he's looking for work before going to jail.

He's hired by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), a billionaire who is the patriarch of a large family, many of whom he despises.

It's divulged that at least three Vangers were Nazi sympathizers. There are many other skeletons in the Vanger closets.

Henrik is obsessed with the disappearance of his beloved niece, Harriet, who vanished some 40 years ago when the Vanger clan was having a family gathering on the island where Henrik still lives. The bridge to the mainland was closed the day she disappeared (the classic “locked room” formula used in so many mysteries).

Henrik knows that a family member was involved in Harriet's vanishing.

Mikael is given access to Vanger family photos and news clippings, and there's one picture in particular that catches his attention. Taken the day Harriet went missing, she is in the photo with an uneasy look gazing in a direction off camera.

As he delves deeper into the mystery his computer gets hacked. It's Lisbeth - a master hacker - who is obsessed with the case and has turned up a series of murders that she believes are connected, dating from the same time period (and several years prior.)

The two get together and form an unlikely team. Mikael is middle-aged and rather proper. Lisbeth is 24 and a Goth wild woman.

She's also on parole. Her parole officer is one of the characters referred to in the original title, “Men Who Hate Women.” He expects certain “favors” from her, which she obliges - not without consternation, but she does what she has to do.

One day the man's demands get more intense. What follows is one of the most uncomfortable film scenes in recent memory. Already knowing Lisbeth, we know she will get her revenge. And she does so in another scene that manages to top the previous sexual violence. This time, it's payback, and the viewer is on Lisbeth's side.

These scenes - and others in the film - are bound to offend some people, but they are pertinent to the plot and Lisbeth's character. But they are disconcerting.

Mikael and Lisbeth start peeling back the layers and are led to places in the Vanger family history that are revealing and surprising.

Film adaptations of the other two books in the trilogy, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest,” are scheduled to be released in the United States later this year.

One thing I kept thinking when seeing “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” was,
“They'll do an American version and dumb it down, like they did with the remakes of 'La Femme Nikita' and 'Open Your Eyes.'"  

There is an American version in the works, but it's being directed by David Fincher, who did “Se7en” and “Fight Club.” He might do justice to this intense and dark piece.[[In-content Ad]]


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