Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

(MA15+) ****

Director: Niels Arden Oplev.

Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Peter Haber, Sven-Bertil Taube.

THE movie version of the first of Stieg Larsson's mega-selling Millenium trilogy has made it to DVD, with the other two on the way soon.

It's good news for fans of the late Swedish writer's dark crime novels, especially if books two and three are adapted as finely as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Nyqvist stars as Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist who is sentenced to jail for libel over an article he wrote. With six months before he has to go to prison (it must be a Swedish thing), Blomkvist is hired by powerful industrialist Henrik Vanger (Haber) to investigate a 40-year-old cold case - the disappearance of his niece Harriet.

Blomkvist's search is aided by Lisbeth Salander (Rapace), a young goth hacker with a troubled past, but the two soon discover that Harriet's disappearance could be linked to a series of unsolved murders that may be the work of a serial killer.

As with the superlative Swedish film Let The Right One In, Hollywood has snatched up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo for a remake instead of just spending money to promote and release the original version to a wide audience (like they no doubt will with their own version).

It's not surprising David Fincher has put his hand up for the remake, as the subject material is right up his alley, a la Seven and Zodiac but an English-language remake seems so pointless (as usual) given the quality here.

Nyqvist is good as Blomkvist, but Rapace is astounding as the grim hacker Lisbeth. While the ordeals she faces during the film are harrowing and difficult to watch, it makes for a gripping and fascinating character, and it's her compelling presence that elevates what could have been an otherwise bog-standard mystery.

The film wisely takes its time setting up the dynamic between the two leads, not uniting them until about 70 minutes into this lengthy drama. But it's time well-spent because of the engrossing way the story unfolds and the passion we develop for the investigators.

Shot with that icy blue-white look of many Scandanavian films, this is an at-times harsh film (the Swedish title's direct translation - Men Who Hate Women - should give you some idea of the truly f***ed-up misogyny that lies ahead) that treads a well-worn path excellently thanks to a sharp script and two brilliantly realised characters.

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