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“I’m doing what every man dreams of. I take what I want.”,

Over 2.5 million people in Scandinavia have seen this film, making it the first film in Scandinavian history ever to break the $100 million mark for European ticket sales, and US fans of Stieg Larsson’s bestseller of the same name may propel the film to similar records here. The R-rated film tells the story of Mikael Blomqvist, a disgraced journalist for Sweden’s Millenium magazine who accepts an invitation from an elderly businessman to investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet, thirty-seven years ago. No trace of her has ever turned up, and the old man fears that a member of his family may have murdered her. While Blomquist is gathering information and storing it on his computer, he realizes that someone is hacking into his files. That person is Lisbeth Salander, a disturbed young woman living under the guardianship of the state, having spent time in a mental institution. Working together, they discover information about the Vanger family’s Nazi connections and their association with extreme religious groups.

Danish director Niels Arden Oplev’s dark and atmospheric cinematography establishes an ice-cold mood from the outset, with the action taking place in winter on an isolated island where the sun never seems to shine. Outdoor scenes are mostly black, white, and gray; interior scenes are full of clutter and of dark wood of almost claustrophobic heaviness. Michael Nyqvist (as Mikael Blomqvist) conveys the sense of loss, even betrayal, that his character feels after losing a libel case in a miscarriage of justice, and his vulnerability makes him the perfect foil for Noomi Rapace (as Lisbeth Salander).

Rapace conveys not only the toughness and emotional dissociation resulting from abuse Lisbeth has faced, but also, in two memorable scenes, the feeling that behind the seemingly ironclad façade, there beats a real heart. Her role in the film is bigger than it is in the novel, and when she is on screen, it is impossible to look at anyone else. Nyqvist seems to recognize this, conveying Blomqvist’s support for her through body language, gesture, and facial expressions, and remaining more in the background. The supporting actors, though their parts are far less developed, are equally committed to the film as a whole.

Brilliant pacing keeps the action and its shocks continuing throughout the film, and not a single “dead spot” appears, an extraordinary feat for a film that is more than two-and-a-half hours long and depends upon subtitles for dialogue. Even people familiar with the book will be jolted by the sudden visual shocks as they hit. Horrifying scenes of physical and sexual violence often make the film very difficult to watch, the sounds of the violence making the visual effects even stronger. There are some scenes of nudity.  Every aspect of this film is integrated into the whole, however, and it is difficult to imagine any adult fan of the book being disappointed in this production.

Notes: The stills from the film include Bjurman with Lisbeth Salander, Mikael Blomqvist with the elderly patriarch of the Vanger family, and the Vanger family younger generation.  All come from  http://www.allmoviephoto.com

See trailer for the Swedish edition here:

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