Mikael Blomkvist is a disgraced former journalist hired by Henrik Vagner, retired former CEO of the Vagner Group, to investigate the disappearance of his great-niece 37 years ago. Along the way, he uncovers a dark secret within the Vagner family which runs deeper the just the disappearance of Harriet Vagner, although he's not the only one investigating. Lisbeth Salander, a mysterious young punk investigating Blomkvist, becomes intrigued with Blomkvist's latest work and becomes involved, leading to the two of them forming an unlikely partnership as they seek to uncover the truth...
Right from the off, this film will absolutely keep you intrigued and engrossed, right until the very end. The characters are complex and interesting, the plot is intriguing and shocking, and the actual film itself is brilliant shot. The vast landscapes on display, what with the film being set and shot in Sweden, are breathtaking and cast a perfect backdrop to this tale of mystery and intrigue. What I particularly noted was the way the film seamlessly moved between action, mystery, thriller and comedy. The shift of genres throughout the film will keep you intrigued, so much so that you'll barely notice the film is two and a half hours long and will even have you asking for more by the end. For the first half of the film, it seems like a quest to get Blomkvist and Salander to work together, and when they finally do, the second half becomes the story of them connecting on a personal level whilst they work together to solve the mystery of Harriet's disappearance and everything else they uncover along the way.
It's hard to tell at time who the main character is; Michael Nyqvist's Mikael Blomkvist is a compelling lead role, with most of the action focused on him and his career and his investigation of the Vagner mystery. However, Noomi Rapace's Lisbeth Salander, the eponymous 'girl with the dragon tattoo', is so dark and mysterious, whenever she's on the screen, she completely steals the limelight. Rapace's performance is spot on, playing the role of the troubled, misunderstood punk with a history of abuse and violence. The subtle underplaying of the history of the character creates an added level of intrigue and mystery to an already compelling story. The acting si superb by all the actor throughout, especially in the scenes containing sexual violence. It's understandable that those must be hard scenes to film, as they were to watch, and yet all the actors involved play their roles to a tee, whether it's the abused victim or the sick-minded abuser.
It's clear throughout the film that this a literary adaptation, and director Niels Arden Oplev has done a great job in adapting the late Stieg Hanson's novel "Men Who Hate Women/The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" to screen. This film adaptation doesn't lose any of the fast paced action or punchy dialogue used in the book to move the plot along, although having the film in Swedish with English subtitles does, unfortunately, mean some parts are 'lost in translation', although that's not to say it's a difficult film to follow. The plot moves along at a consistent pace, and keeps on twisting and turning right until the very end. My only complaint is, much like the book, the film comes to a natural conclusion about one and a half reels before the actual end. It seems almost a shame that everything gets so neatly wrapped up by its conclusion, as I was hoping some elements would be left open for the sequel, even if things are wrapped up in the book as well.
Overall, I found this film phenomenal, engaging and masterful. Most definitely the best foreign film I've seen since Oldboy and just as uncomfortable to watch in parts, this is a compelling mystery story that relies heavily on its well written plot and dialogue. The acting is consistently high throughout, the plot is complex and yet not overly complex, and the film itself, as I've said before, is beautifully shot, offering unparalleled landscapes and visuals. If this film is anything to go by, I can't wait for "The Girl Who Played with Fire" to be released this summer.