Now to the good news, and there's lots of it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            It would be great fun to be able to urge you to see "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" without reservation. After all, it is a suspense movie that grips us, startles us with unexpected twists, and offers up imaginative characters. But a reservation is a must mention when the audience gasps and covers its eyes to deliver itself from the violent imagery that comes suddenly, often, and with gore. Most of the violence, and it is extreme, stems from sexual abuse, either received or given, in the backgrounds of various characters. If vengeance is in your playbook, rest assured it is achieved. Just be gently warned that this movie is a rough ride. Now to the good news, and there's lots of it.

            Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), an investigative reporter, has been sued and has lost a libel case brought by Swedish businessman. The court has sentenced him to a jail term that will start in six months. We also meet Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), an accomplished hacker who investigated Mikael during the case and found him innocent. Lisbeth is the unforgettable hacker with piercings, a mind and body made of steel and ice, and a dragon tattoo the size of the map of Sweden on her back. Whether her self-containment is protective or genetic is ours to learn. She and Mr. Mikael carry the movie with marvelous emotional restraint. The brutal excess unfolds around them.

            Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) lures Mikael to his own cause during his pre-prison interval. Forty years ago Henrik's niece, Harriet (Ewa Froling) disappeared. Believing her death to have been one of a series of murders of young women at the time, Henrik lures Mikael with the promise of justice and money. Will he please solve Harriet's murder? When, in a great twist, we discover the murderer's identity before our heroes do, the suspense doubles.

            And so we meet the Vanger family - a ghastly group of selfish freeloaders - including three Nazis - living off the family fortune on an island estate connected to the mainland by a long bridge. They present the gift of multiple suspects and multiple victims. Mikael and Lisbeth, separately and then in tandem, will probe a hideous thicket of greed and sex that roils through the Vanger family, and several peripherals, onto a serial list of innocents.

            We watch good actors playing monstrous characters; we watch a computer become a glistening crime fighter in the hands of a genius hacker; we feel the gorgeous isolation of a Swedish landscape. While Mikael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace are terrific together, it is Ms. Rapace who dazzles us with the originality and absolute consistency of her performance.

            This is the first of Stieg Larsson's trilogy of novels. We can anticipate numbers two and three with great pleasure. Someone out there just be sure to re-cast Blomkvist and Rapace. Together they have scared the devil out of us - and will again.


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