Movies: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo * * *
(18, limited release)
Based on the bestselling novels of Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson, who managed to complete his Millennium Trilogy before dropping dead of a heart attack aged 50, in 2004, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an atmospheric and mildly original thriller that has Hollywood re-make written all over it -- in fact, I believe plans are already afoot.
Meanwhile, we have this Swedish film, the first of three movies based on Larsson's trilogy. The immensely charismatic and subtle actor Michael Nyqvist plays Mikael Blomkvist, a campaigning investigative journalist.
As the film opens, he's under a cloud, having been sued for libel by a corrupt Swedish industrialist. He will shortly be sent to prison for six months, but meanwhile he receives a visit from a rotund lawyer who represents a rich family called the Vangers. When he travels to the family's remote island mansion, patriarch Henrik Vanger asks him to reopen a very old missing person's case. Some 40 years previously, Vanger's niece Harriet went missing and has never been seen since: Vanger is convinced someone in the family killed her, but the police got nowhere.
Henrik Vanger still receives a package of pressed flowers every year on Harriet's birthday -- he believes it's from the killer, and begs Blomkvist to investigate. He does, with the help of a chippy young female computer whiz who introduces herself by hacking into Blomkvist's computer, but turns out to be an extremely useful ally. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has been abused since childhood, but as she and Blomkvist investigate Harriet's disappearance, they begin to build up trust.
Aside from its handsome camerawork, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has the look of a feature-length TV crime drama, and while perfectly entertaining, its storyline would not detain the likes of Sherlock Holmes for long. Also, the film includes two entirely gratuitous scenes of sexual violence that are sure to offend some. The cert is 18, and they're definitely not kidding.