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Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her beloved uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist Michael Nyqvist and the tattooed and troubled but resourceful computer hacker Lisbeth Salander Noomi Rapace to investigate. When the pair link Harriet s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vanger s are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.
Fans of Stieg Larsson's Men Who Hate Women may have been concerned about how the Swedish author's novel would translate to the screen, but they needn't have worried. Significant changes to the source material have been made, but director Niels Arden Opley's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as it's now called, is mostly riveting. As the story begins, middle-aged investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist Michael Nyqvist has just been convicted of a bogus charge of libel against a rich and corrupt corporate hotshot when he's unexpectedly offered a most unusual gig. An aging captain of industry named Henrik Vanger Sven-Bertil Taube wants Blomkvist to figure out what happened to Vanger's niece, who disappeared more than 40 years earlier; not only is the old man convinced that she was murdered, but he suspects that another member of his large and rather disagreeable family which includes several former Nazis is the culprit. Blomkvist takes the job, which includes spending at least six months on Vanger's isolated island in the middle of winter. But what he doesn't know is that he's being spied on by twentysomething Lisbeth Salander brilliantly played by Noomi Rapace in a career-making performance, the titular Girl and the possessor of remarkable skills as a sleuth and computer hacker. With her gothlike piercings and all-black clothes, Lisbeth is a vivid character, to say the least. While we don't exactly know the details of her dark past, it's obviously still with her; indeed, she's just been assigned a new "guardian" like a parole officer to look after her finances and other matters. We also know that she is not someone to mess with; when the guardian turns out to be a thoroughly vile monster, Lisbeth gets back at him in one of the more satisfying revenge sequences in recent memory. That Lisbeth and Mikael should end up working together, and more, isn't especially surprising. But the horrifying details and depths of depravity they uncover while working on the case parallels to The Silence of the Lambs are facile but appropriate definitely are, and Opley does a nice job of keeping it all straight. At more than two and a half hours, the film is long, with its share of grim, graphic, and scary moments, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a winner. --Sam Graham