Year Released: 2010
Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube
(Not Rated, 152 min.)
"In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy." Sir Francis Bacon
A disgraced journalist and a troubled computer hacker find more than they bargain for as they explore a forty-year-old disappearance. Each clue leads them into a darker realm in this finely plotted, stark vision of power, violence, and depravity.
This Swedish film is excellent on many levels. The plot is solid, commanding our attention as the details from a sordid past are revealed at a tantalizingly slow pace. The characters are captivating in all their flawed human complexity as are the actors that portray them. And the isolated island home to the powerful Swedish Vanger clan is as cold and formidable as they are.
But it’s not so much the mystery itself, but those seeking to unravel it who capture our attention. Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), an investigative journalist, has just been convicted of libeling a wealthy industrialist and has a bit of time on his hands before his three-month jail sentence. He also has a fairly hefty fine to pay, so there is really no downside for his taking the cold case offered him by the grieving uncle, Henrik Vanger (Sven–Bertil Taube).
Part of the interest is how Blomkvist’s external self contrasts with his inner core. Middle-aged and milquetoast, his bland looks and soft eyes belie his dogged single-mindedness. He doesn’t flinch when Henrik dumps several unwieldy boxes of files and photos onto his kitchen floor; he just sets to work trying to make some meaning out of them.
Working on the edges of this case is Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a “pierced angel/demon who can do anything with a MacBook,” as critic Rob Gonsalves so aptly observes. She is Goth with a capital G, pierced, tattooed, and tough as nails. At least that’s what she would have us believe, and her male tormentors as well, all who pay dearly for their vile transgressions against her. The camera does not shy from the violent and graphic nature of the sexual assaults against her, nor her vengeance in kind, so be warned in advance, this is no film for the squeamish.
That Lisbeth’s donned armor of leather, metal, and maledictions covers an injured vulnerability is hinted at with a few brief flashbacks.
The structure of the mystery itself has all we might expect and more. First is the field of suspects, mostly members of the dysfunctional Vanger clan. Bound by money and blood, the surviving heirs live in their separate pieces of the icy island, a loathsome bunch of Nazi sympathizers, alcoholics, and negligent parents. Childless Henrik is the only brother who has the milk of human kindness running in his veins, and he suspects one of his own family has murdered his beloved Harriet.
Fitting with all the other contrasts in the film, our clues are of two types as well. Harriet’s Bible and her books have some notes, names and numbers that seem to have no significance -- at first. Forty year old photos from the day of her disappearance are grainy evidence, but of what? Old fashioned sleuthing through hordes of dusty documents and microfiche lay a foundation, but it is high tech wizardry that provides the quantum leap, enhancing photos and searching through data at light speed.
Of course none of this works without old fashioned footwork, as Blomqvist and his pierced partner ride her motorcycle to parts unknown where they begin to unmask a series of grotesque killings linked to Harriet’s disappearance. The two who seem so different share an unrelenting hunger for the truth that unites them.
Yet, like the equally nihilistic Tell No One, No Country for Old Men, Eastern Promises, Terribly Happy, and Edge of Darkness, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, shows us how those battling evil are too often tainted by it, the bloody residue somehow seeping into their very souls.
Thus, our film becomes a morality tale of sorts, a cautionary one that demonstrates, if you look beneath the surface, the shortcomings of our common reactions to evil – escape or revenge. Both are forms of self-preservation that maim yet do not destroy what they face.
And as every dragon slayer knows, one must not merely wound the bloody beast, but drain the life out of it.
Before Mikael Blomkvist takes on the forty year old cold case, he plans to enjoy a nice family dinner with his sister and niece. He is beginnings his instructions on how to make meatballs – the secret is to first wet your hands – when the phone rings.
Sadly, before he can finish his instructions or the meatballs, he is called to the remote island and the case. I guess we’ll have to do the rest for him, seeing as how he is up to his elbows in musty photos, microfiche, and yellowing press clippings.
These are as easy to make as they delicious.
1/4 cup milk
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup dry cream of wheat cereal
1/4 cup minced onion
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and the milk. Add the beef, cream of wheat and onion and mix well. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place balls on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 20 minutes.
Drain meatballs on paper towels, if needed. Then place meatballs in a lightly greased 2 quart casserole dish. In a separate medium bowl, combine the soups with the evaporated milk, stirring until smooth. Pour over the meatballs.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for another 40 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
Recipe Source: allrecipes.com