The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Journalism: Another Step into Looking Boring

the girl with the dragon tattoo

Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace

By Robert Patrick

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is a mystery about a young woman, missing since the late nineteen-sixties, whose photograph finds itself sardonically perched against the weathered hands of one her family members. Where did she disappear to? To what fate did she meet? These blurred questions, posed by her uncle Henrik Vanger, an affluent impresario of the storied family company, has been driving the aging man mad for some forty-years. Because of Henrik’s unresolved inquiries, he asks a blacklisted reporter, Mikael Blomkvist, to help him crack the cold case.

Shortly after Blomkvist is commissioned to play detective, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” becomes an amoral circus of macabre eroticism that has us endure two elongated scenes of sodomy; several instances of hallucinatory flashbacks; and an overflow of marred and monochrome photos. The film isn’t, from what I gathered of the incessant wailing and torturous affairs by those in the story, particularly inviting – especially at the portly running time of nearly three hours.

Not alone in solving the potential murder mystery, Blomkvist is assisted by the hypersensitive Lisbeth Salander, a venomous sleuth who does her research with the clacking of computer keys. The two of them, unlikely in age and demeanor, briskly pry open doors of suspicion. Blomkvist is about as mercurial as a tortoise; his body language is stiff and curt, and his eyes droop in disparagement. Lisbeth, on the other hand, is so pale she looks like her body was slicked over with a wet paint roller. To make her look as volatile and anti-confirmative as possible, Lisbeth is written as someone who dresses in leather and spikes. Some of her clothing choices make Siouxie and The Banshees look like The Everly Brothers in comparison. The odd couple theorem is utilized here, in equal doses of absurdity and detestation, as the boring journalist and the ill-tempered computer hacker team up for languid detective-work and tepid sexual escapades.

Niels Arden Oplev’s film threads in as many twists as possible, in the event that one out of the dozen would work, but they all end up as nothing more than tired clichés culled from the belly similarly uninspired films of its genre. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” ostracizes itself from interest because of its flaccid unoriginality; the film borrows, whether consciously or not, from “Se7en,” “Hackers,” “Zodiac” and even “Clue.”

The smile of the missing girl in the picture, with a wry curl of the lip, looks oddly like the subtle expression boasted by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The stirring sight of the girl’s mellow stare, held to forever probe her surroundings, makes for a suggestive – and almost predetermined – acknowledgment of her future disappearance. Some of these flickering images are eerie, though none of them really come to a boil with such a lukewarm flame held underneath the story.

What the movie does do is provide a triumphant way of stalling, starting, then stalling the action. The little action and vigor that “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” does have is unenthusiastically marbled into the film. You can sense that Oplev is attempting to brand the hull of his opus with a neo-Hitchcockian flare. Many of the characters in Stieg Larsson’s story are seedy lechers, unworthy of identifying with let alone watching.

Because the film was such an unparalleled success in Europe, the remaining stories in the “Millennium Trilogy” of books should see a meaty adaptation in the future. There are even rumors that, if you trust, the dewy-eyed Cary Mulligan could suit up to play the devil-may-care Lisbeth in an English language remake. Why the vigilante work of a pierced, angsty femme fatale and a droll journalist warrant more attention is beyond me.


“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is now playing at Landmark’s La Jolla Village and Hillcrest Cinemas.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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