Film review 4.5/5
As you probably know, I devoured the Millennium trilogy of books by Stieg Larsson last year. Being a fan of the Kenneth Branagh Wallander series on the BBC, which is produced by the same team who have made the Swedish film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, my expectations for this were high.
I felt a bit of a wally at the beginning of the film as for some reason I expected it to be English language – I think because of the posters and also because Wallander, although all filmed on location in Sweden, is in English. I’m really glad it wasn’t though, the film is in Swedish and of course all the more authentic for it.
I really enjoyed this film, it was a satisfying experience, being a fan of the books, seeing it so faithfully recreated. It was exactly as I had imagined it. Nyqvist & Rapace are perfectly cast as Blomkvist & Salander, particularly Noomi Rapace as Salander – she is quite wonderful in the role, and I look forward to seeing the character develop in the next two films. The only miscast character I felt was the actress playing Erika Berger – she wasn’t feisty or attractive enough for me – basically, she just didn’t look right (to see if you agree, she’s the red head in the trailer below).
The first book of the trilogy is possibly the most complex in terms of the plot line. The script writers did a brilliant job recreating complex scenes – such as the way Salander can hack into computers. Some of the more complicated elements of the story are cut out and this makes the film move more smoothly – such as the ‘cover’ story that Blomqvist is writing a history of the Vanger family – but this doesn’t spoil it I felt.
Seeing the book brought to life on screen has made me all the more irritated that they chose to call the English language version of the book ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. It’s a silly title for the book. The tattoo is not relevant in any way and although Salander is a central character, she is not the focus of the books really. I wish they had kept the Swedish name ‘Men who hate women’ since it describes the themes of the story more accurately.
As a result, you can imagine that this is not a film for the squeamish, and where I think an American production company would have held back, the violent rape scenes are just that: just as graphic as in the books and all the more impactful for being on the screen (I couldn’t watch some parts).
I’m not sure how the film will stand up on its own – separately from the book. I loved it because it faithfully recreated the book, but if I hadn’t read the book I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed it so much. My recommendation (which is always the same for films based on books) is to read the book first, and if you can, the whole trilogy: your experience will be the richer for it.
It’s a good solid crime thriller, well filmed and acted with a good amount of tension. I wouldn’t want to see an English language version of it now. I can’t imagine anyone who could play Salander as well as Noomi Rapace. Go and see it, if only for her performance!
A final aside – it was fun learning words in Swedish. I learnt that the word ‘besotted’ comes from the Swedish (or Nordic) and also that the Swedish for ‘two’ is the same but pronounced ‘tvo’!