The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4) : Meet original Lisbeth Salander

—- David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”(2011) will be released on the second weekend of next January in South Korean theaters. The original Swedish version will be also released in South Korea a week before, so I checked my review on that film which I wrote around late March in 2010, and, as an experiment, I decided to translate the review to post it at my blog. I changed it a little bit because it was written almost two years ago, but I retained what I tried to express in Korean as much as possible. Please feel free to enjoy how clumsy I was even with Korean at that time.

The Swedish film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”(In South Korea, it will be released as “Millenium Part I : The Men Who Hate Woman”) is a fabulous film rare to encounter. After the end credit rolled, it was like reading an excellent mystery novel from the beginning to the end while completely involved in the story. As a good mystery, this satisfying adaptation constantly draws out attention; it is compelling to watch how it peel away its mystery step by step to arrive at the truth while carefully establishing its characters, and, above all, there is an unforgettably fascinating heroine as interesting as the case itself.

Mikael Blomkvist(Michael Nyqvist) is a well-known journalist and the editor-in-chief of the magazine named Millenium, but he is now in a big, big trouble. He wrote the article for disclosing the corruption of a powerful business figure in Sweden, and then he was sued for libel and is recently sentenced to not only pay a fine of 150,000 Krona but also spend his time in jail for three months; in the other words, his career as a journalist is nearly ruined. The people around him suggest appeal, but Blomkvist, whose glum face reminds me a lot of the gloominess of Richard Burton, does not want to do that because he is afraid that his downfall may affect his dear magazine.

Then, through a lawyer, he is asked to investigate some unsolved case during the time left to him before going to prison, and he is invited to the manor in some island. His client is none other than Henrik Vanger(Sven-Bertil Taube), who was once a respected CEO but is retired at present.

Henrik has checked Blomkvist in advance to confirm how trustworthy he is, and, under the condition of considerable reward, he entrust him with the investigation of a mysterious case in the past. Forty years ago, his niece, whom he adored like his daughter, was suddenly disappeared, and, based on the evidences gathered through the investigation at that time, she seemed to be vanished in the island while the island was temporarily shut down from the outside due to the accident which happened on the bridge which connects the island and the mainland.

 Henrik has no idea about what happened to his loving niece, but he believes she was murdered, and he thinks the murderer was possibly one of his big family members. He has a good reason for that; when we see some of important family members gathering in the library, it is clear that the Vanger family members can fill at least two or three Agatha Christie novels. Everyone seems to hide something, and some of them are quite greedy, selfish, and despicable. Furthermore, this family has the shady past associated with the Nazism during the World War II.

While residing in the remote house nearby the Vanger manor, Mikael patiently look over the case while trying to get the new clues. Like the people investigating the case did at the time, he soon arrives at the dead end, but one helper surreptitiously approaches to him. She is a young hacker named Lisbeth Salander(Noomi Rapace), and, thanks to her ingenious talent to break the codes, he has a breakthrough in the investigation. Mikael searches for more clues with Lisbeth, and it turns out that their simple case may be only a tip of a far more horrible thing. And, of course, someone is not so pleased about their progression.

Besides the investigation process, the movie also focuses on the details in the characterization in the story. While their paths are slowly overlapped with each other, Mikael and Lisbeth are established as clear, vivid human beings. Especially in case of Lisbeth, who begins to occupy the center of story right from the first appearance, she is a cool, mesmerizing character. With a black leather jacket and the piercing on her cold, detached face, this ice princess is attractive not because she is lovely, but because she is quite compelling in an enigmatic way. She does not like people much(but that does not mean that she does not have interest in sex), and she seems to have vulnerabilities behind her face along with her unhappy past not explained well in the film. None the less, she is certainly not a woman who steps back from a sadistic scumbag who is recently appointed as her new legal guardian. The subplot associated with the disturbing relationship between them seems to be a little too gratuitous at first, but it turns out to be a crucial factor behind her motives in the investigation process.

 In case of investigation process in the film, there is no such a thing like surprise reversal, but it is very entertaining to observe the process. The flashback could have used, but we are instead put in the position same as Mikael and Lisbeth’s while gathering clues and trying to deduce the answer. In one of the impressive moments in the movie, they use the computer software to scan and blow up the images shot at around the time when the incident might happen. Like any detective stories, the moment for the explanation is required, so the film approaches to that famous cliché named “talking villain syndrome”, but I have to say there exist logical reason and situation for that.

I heard that Noomi Rapace prepared a lot before the shooting, and her effort is clearly shown in the film. Because Rapace is so fantastic that she nearly owns the character, like other critics, I have lots of doubts about how they can possibly get the American actress who can substitute Rapace’s singular sexiness for the American remake version currently in pre-production. Sure, Lisbeth is a wonderful character any young talented actress craves for(I heard Kristen Stewart might be considered), but, as Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli pointed out, recruiting Rapace sounds like a better idea. Opposite to Rapace, Michael Nyqvist supports her well while being in the equal position; Mikael may be less clever than Lisbeth, but he is a good investigator with firm, admirable integrity. Sven-Bertil Taube is poignant as an old man who sincerely wants to know the truth; you feel sorry about him and do not like to deliver a bad news to him.

 Though the running time is over 150 minutes, the director Niels Arden Oplev makes a mystery thriller which does not bore you at all. The screen is filled with chilly, remote Scandinavian wintry atmosphere, and the tension level is constantly maintained in the high level. Usually, the hacking technique in movies is too magical to believe, the depiction in this movie is quite realistic to believe – I wonder whether someone is looking at my laptop while I am writing this review. The screenplay by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterbergdoes not hurry; it deftly prepares the ground for the story to tell, and it does a good job of finishing it while announcing the next story to come.

The movie is based on the first novel of the Millenium series written by Stieg Larsson who died years ago while writing the fourth novel(The series has already been published in South Korea, by the way). The next two novels were also adapted for following two sequels. From what I have heard, the response to them was less enthusiastic, but, anyway, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” itself is a successful adaptation, and it makes me interested in these sequels. And, yes, I won’t forget that it introduces me a wonderful character and a talented actress to watch.


  1. After several months after I watched “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, I watched those two sequels. Though they were not better than the first film, I enjoyed them all. Noomi Rapace was consistently watchable, and she and her movies were one of the most entertaining things I watched in 2010.

2. I heard Fincher’s film is as good as it can be – and Rooney Mara is very good as the heroine. I know I should be open-minded before watching movies, but I have to admit that I have some expectation at present.

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