I knew almost nothing about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when I watched a screener copy of the film last week. I didn’t know it was based on a book by that became an international bestseller. I didn’t know it was a mystery thriller. I didn’t know it was in Swedish with English subtitles.

The one thing I did know was that it was 152 minutes long, and I was getting a late start watching it, popping it in the DVD player at nearly 10 p.m.

None of that mattered. Within five minutes I was hooked, riveted by the intricate plot, tension, and one of the most original, compelling characters ever created: Lisbeth Salander, an androgynous, tattooed and pierced bisexual badass, a young woman who’s experienced a lifetime of abusive men. That abuse—and how she deals with it—defines Lisbeth Salander’s life. As the abusive men quickly discover, Lisbeth is no damsel in distress. She doesn’t need saving; she saves herself and those around her. And Lisbeth doesn’t just get mad, she gets even.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo concerns a disgraced reporter, Mikael Blomkvist, who is hired by the wealthy industrialist to solve the 40-year-old disappearance of his teenaged niece, whom he believes to have been murdered by a member of their greedy family. Before hiring Mikael, the industrialist hires Lisbeth, a computer genius and brilliant hacker, to investigate Mikael. As Mikhail gathers files regarding the case on his computer, Lisbeth continues her hacking into Mikhail’s computer and becomes intrigued by the case. Eventually the two partner to solve the mystery, and together uncover a grotesque series of murders and a gruesome family history.

Noomi Rapace’s performance as Lisbeth Salander is the centerpiece of this taut thriller. Rapace oozes danger and charisma—whenever she’s onscreen you can’t take your eyes off her. But she also conveys Lisbeth’s more vulnerable side, breathing life and adding depth to an already mesmerizing character. Michael Nyqvist, one of Sweden’s most popular actors, is perfect as Mikael Blomkvist, and his unlikely chemistry with Rapace is palpable.

Writer Steig Larsson died before his debut novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was published, but he completed three manuscripts, a trilogy featuring his provocative heroine. The books have already been made into films in Sweden, all starring Rapace. I’m already looking forward to their U.S. release this summer. For now, don’t miss The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s a must-see film you won’t soon forget.


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