Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev
Written by:Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg
Starring: Michael Nvqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Haber, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Andersson
Released: March 25, 2010
Grade: A-

I wish I read more books.  Sadly, I just don’t have the time given that I’m an accountant by day and film critic by night.  I was flipping through the paper on Sunday and noticed that the second highest selling book in Australia at present is Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  What was the number one book?  Stieg’s follow up – The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Having now seen this film, I’m very tempted to go back and read the novel.  It may be two and a half hours long but this is an intricate thriller which kept my attention all the way through.  I can now see why the book is so popular.  The two leading characters are intriguing and whilst there are a few gaps in the story (bound to happen through the adaptation process) it will keep you thinking.

It begins with investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist) receiving an unusual request.  He has been asked by a high profile businessman named Henrik Vanger (Taube) to look into the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, over 40 years ago.  The case was never solved and Harriet’s body was never found.  Henrik, now aged 82, is hoping that Mikael can provide the closure that he’s long been looking for.

Henrik is an extremely wealthy man and choosing Mikael was no accident.  Prior to approaching him, Henrik wanted to check the validity of his highly regarded reputation.  He employed a brilliant computer hacker by the name of Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) to put together a detailed dossier on Mikael.  Lisbeth cracked the security on his laptop and did just that.  Mikael didn’t know it but every document, every image, every word on his computer had been scrutinised by Lisbeth.

Now is where it starts to get interesting.  Mikael makes some early progress but hits a stumbling block when trying to decode a strange series of numbers in Harriet’s diary.  Lisbeth knows though.  She’s developed a curiosity for Mikael and is still monitoring the activity on his laptop.  She makes the bold decision to fess up to Mikael and help him with the case.  Together, this unlikely duo will soon realise that there’s a lot more to this mystery than they ever imagined…

It’s an interesting movie but so too is the story behind it.  Author Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist who passed away in 2004.  He left behind the manuscripts for three books (a fourth was in progress but not yet complete).  They were later published and as of today, more than 22 million copies have been sold around the globe.  Strangely, Larsson left no will.  All the royalties from the books and film rights have therefore been left to his father and brother (in accordance with Swedish law) instead of his partner of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson (whom he never formally married).

It’s worth noting that there are a handful of scenes which are best described as “confronting”.  The movie is rated MA accordingly.  It’s a particularly brave performance from 30-year-old Noomi Rapace who plays Lisbeth.  I think she’s fantastic and look forward to seeing her in future films.  Also strong is Michael Nvqvist who some will remember from the 2004 cult hit As It Is In Heaven.

There’s talk of a Hollywood remake but I’m glad to see this film was made in Sweden with a local cast.  I know some moviegoers who are perturbed by subtitles but judging from the sold out preview sessions last weekend, I think this is going to perform nicely at the Australian box-office.  Having raved about Let The Right One In last year, I’m now a big fan of Swedish cinema.  Let’s have more of it!