The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010)

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Andrew INDIFFERENTMy God what a bland experience.  Were it not for one important detail, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be one of the most forgettable movies this year.  It tries to cram as much style and historical nonsense into it's murder mystery as possible, and takes extra expository laps around it's finish as possible.  If the film is any indication about the quality of Stieg Larsson's original novel, I'll be staying far away from his words.  The film is overlong, overstylized, boring - and contains one of the most intense performances I've seen all year.  So bless you Noomi Rapace, for giving this film a vitality in moments that it lacks in long stretches.

The titular girl with the tattoo of a dragon is hardly featured in the opening hour of the film.  We have some vague vestiges of a plot as Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) continues her work at a private investigation company and spies on Mikael (Michael Nyqvist).  Mikael was recently sentenced to jail because of some investigative work that was discredited, and is hired by an elderly millionaire named Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) to investigate an old murder.  Seems that his three brothers, and other members of the family, may have had a hand in the death and disappearance of his niece Harriett.  The brothers seem most likely, because they were members of the Nazi party during the war.

It's about there that what little attention I had to the plot suddenly dropped.  Everything is presented in as flat and confusing an angle as possible.  Reaction shots litter the screen that have no bearing on the surroundings or spatial relationships between characters.  The style itself is presented as a sort of cross between the smoky confinements of noir and the cold expanses of Swedish master Ingmar Bergman.  This isn't compelling in the slightest as every scene that is supposed to generate tension is undone by it's presentation.  It's a strained relationship between those two components and left me bored anytime my eye wandered to the visual details.

This wouldn't have been as noticeable if the plot developed into something that I could sink my teeth into.  Save for a few portions involving Lisbeth, and the allusions to a history of violence against women, there was very little to care about.  The mystery is not compelling in the slightest and once I finally find out what happened all those years ago I was completely drained by the style and acting.  Other than Lisbeth, we spend almost all of our time with Mikael, and Mr. Nyqvist is not what you would call a compelling lead.  He drains the screen of any vitality during his scenes and continues to be a stoic bore as the film continues.

But as much as he tries to be a black vacuum of personality, his anti-energy cannot diffuse what Noomi Repace brings to Lisbeth.  She's a wounded girl that's found a level of self-reliance and resilience that comes out in small, explosive moments.  The film does little to exploit some of the misogynistic elements involving a few of the characters, and it's all that much better for it.  Lisbeth is not a super hero and we see that when she fights off a group of thugs she succeeds not because of action hero pluck but becomes of fearsome determination.  Repace crackles onscreen and I wish more elements involving Mikael could have been cut from the film.

I was also impressed at some of the restraint shown by the filmmakers involving one particular story thread.  Granted, given the lack of energy there seems to have been too much restraint, but some of the story elements involving violence against women could have been exploited to a terrible end.  The title of the original Swedish novel was "Men Who Hate Women", and that comes up more than a few times in scenes of violence against Lisbeth, Harriet, and other girls who may have been murdered because of religious motivations.  The scenes that toy around with this idea seem separate from the plot, and serve as a strong thematic undercurrent to the investigation at large.  Lisbeth is judged quickly and brutally by her assumed sexuality, and her revenge is intelligent, well played and appropriately brutal at times.

All of the plot threads come together in an ending that isn't exciting, but fairly satisfying.  The film does try to stray away from the obvious actions/reactions of the heroes and villains and I did appreciate Lisbeth's final choices.  But then the film keeps going around on the exposition express far longer than necessary.  I suppose they couldn't leave a decent film at it's peak, so they decided to run it into the ground for another half an hour.

What little power the film contains is derived from Noomi's excellent performance and the way it perceives violence against women.  Beyond that, I have to wonder why anyone bothered with this film.  There are no surprises, no stylistic choices that haven't been done better, and no reason for this to continue on as a film series beyond this.  Still, it's a touch above the Twilight franchise, and lord knows Lisbeth could eat either one of those Team's alive.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010)

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev.
Written by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg.
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, and Sven-Bertil Taube.

Posted by Andrew

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