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Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The


Stars: Michael Nykvist, Noomi Rapace, Peter Haber, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Andersson, Lena Endre

Director: Niels Arden Opler

Episodes of CSI, Waking the Dead and Wallander on TV have taught us to expect strong stuff in today's thrillers. So few fans will be shocked at the gruesome details in this first film adaptation from three phenomenally successful detective novels by the late Stieg Larsson. It's pretty gripping stuff, even if it does lurch a bit at the end of a lengthy runtime, with several successive 'semi-endings'.

Top investigative journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Nykvist) has gathered the goods on a corporate arms dealer. But, when he publishes, the bad guy sues for libel and Blomqvist sees his sources disappear faster than butter under the grill; he goes down for six months.

While glumly waiting for his sentence to start, Blomqvist finds himself summoned to the lakeside mansion of Henrik Vanger (70s matinee idol Taube), who has had the reporter thoroughly vetted by a young Goth hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Rapace), whose violent past has resulted in a series of legal guardians, the latest of whom (Andersson) demands painful sexual favours in return for the release of her funds.

Blomqvist's first task is to solve a 40-year-old mystery, when Vanger's niece Harriet vanished and was never seen again. He feels part of the answer lies in an old photo of a parade, when the girl seems to have been scared by something she saw there. But he is unable to decipher a series of initials and numbers in her diary.

Working separately out of curiosity, Lisbeth - the girl with the dragon tattoo - hacks into Blomqvist's computer, cracks the code and sends him the bizarre solution. Soon they are working as a team, not just on Harriet's disappearance, but a whole series of unsolved murders that may relate to it.

'Ever since I came here,' mutters Blomqvist, ' everyone keeps asking me to leave'. And it isn't long before he finds himself being used for target practice.

The sexual relationship between the two investigators is rather improbable, and slightly harms the film, which sometimes needs to keep a sharper edge. The fascination of the mystery's unravelling, however, remains strong, and the ending, if prolonged, is highly satisfactory. Fans of CSI and/or Wallander will love it.

David Quinlan

Sweden/Norway/Denmark 2009. UK Distributor: Momentum. Colour.
153 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 07 Mar 2010