Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

by Laurie Henzel

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev (Music Box Films

I’m just going to say this up front: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—a new film coming out this Friday based on the first volume of late Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s enormously popular “Millennium” trilogy—is the best female epic revenge saga since Kill Bill. The story is suspenseful, violent, and dark as its two main characters—the socially isolated young female hacker Lisbeth Salander (played by tomboyish Noomi Rapace) and the wily 40-something journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist)—embark on a quest to solve a chilling mystery.

The novel on which this film is based is unquestionably feminist in tone. [The original title translated to Men Who Hate Women (!)]. And Salander, portrayed on screen as an A-1 ass kicker who will mess you up, is all about getting revenge on the various men who have wronged her in the past. Truly, Larsson created a fascinating character in Salander, crafting a much-needed heroine for our times. And throughout the film adaptation, screenwriter Nikolaj Arcel retains Larsson’s constant questioning of male arrogance and gives voice to the insidious problem of female disadvantage, abuse, unfairness in the workplace, and subjugation in all it’s ugly forms.

In The New York Times this week, Manoholo Daris pointed out in her article about Kathryn Bigelow that the problem with “chick flicks” is that they are “often the only movies that offer up…female characters who are not standing on the sidelines as the male hero saves the day.” And in this context, it’s easy to see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as an antidote to this cultural inequity, delivering a complex, really-smart-but-not-perfect heroine who is also really appealing.

Though it may be new to our shores, this film has already become the biggest grossing European film of 2009, and it’s easy to see why. Check it out and you’ll probably soon be hooked on the books as well. I am almost done with the third novel, and am sad that the story is almost over. But at least I can look forward to the inevitable film sequels that will hopefully be made from this incredibly cinematic series. [Laurie Henzel]

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