Män som hatar kvinnor [The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo] (2009)

(In theatres, May 2010) Already a monster hit everywhere in the first world, Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy is slowly conquering the American market, the belated release of this first movie preparing the terrain for the release of the third volume in translation, and maybe even an Americanized version of the films.  It’s no fair betting that the eventual remake will be a lot less distinctive than the Swedish original, which does quite a few things differently from what we’d expect.  For one thing, it starts slowly.  Really, really slowly: While the mystery is suggested early on, there isn’t much of an investigation for the first hour of the film, and its main characters are kept apart for a long while.  The film later moves very leisurely, and takes forever to wrap up after the action climax of the story.  But those who have read the original novel know that it’s even worse at pacing than the film.  Fortunately, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo places so much emphasis on its characters that the plot doesn’t reign supreme: Instead, we can be fascinated by the odd pairing of a pudgy reporter (Mikael Blomkvist, appropriately underplayed by Michael Nyqvist) and a prickly hacker (Lisbeth Salander, incarnated definitively by Noomi Rapace) in unravelling a decades-old mystery by the slenderest of threads.  The thematic underpinning of the story is all about violence against women (the original title translates at “Millennium: Part 1 – Men Who Hate Women”), and the film finely upholds the original’s progressive political outlook.  The Swedish setting only adds to the interest of the picture, as we get to see the character dig through decades of local history and travel throughout Sweden.  It all adds up to a crime thriller that works in unusual ways, taking advantage of strong characters to paper over a weak structure and inconsistent pacing.  It all adds up to a fascinating thriller, and one that flows quite a bit better than its 158-minutes running time and slow pacing would suggest.  Bring on the sequels!

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