Finally made it to the cinema last night to see this with my wife. My wife has read all three of Stieg Larsson's novels in the trilogy. I haven't read any of them. She said this film follows the book more closely than any other book-based film she has seen. She was impressed. The film is sometimes advertised under its Swedish title 'Män som hatar kvinnor' (Men Who Hate Women).
This film is as horrific as it is brilliant. I will endeavour to explain and try not to spoil the plot. Central to the plot within two of the stories that unfold is sexual abuse - this includes abuse of children. Although the detail of what takes place is never seen, you are left in no doubt about what has just happened. The film certainly doesn't glamorise it and whilst it is an important piece of the crime-solving jigsaw, the central story is about finding out what happened to someone who disappeared 40 years ago.
The central character Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is a left-wing journalist who is hired to investigate the disappearance. The man doing the hiring uses a Security Agency to snoop on Bomkvist to ensure he is clean and up for the job. Not only is he clean but he's shown to be idealistic and naive. This sets up a relationship of stark contrast when he teams up with the secretive and uber-streetwise Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She was the operative used by the Security Agency to profile Bomkvist. Lisbeth has many qualities - not least a razor-sharp mind and an eye for detail together with extensive computer-hacking abilities. She adds the edge to the investigative partnership.
The film runs for just over 2.5 hours but is so well paced, the time simply flew by. There is plenty of action and the locations depict Sweden in ways that we don't often see. Gritty city underpasses where drunken yobs intimidate unsuspecting pedestrians and the opulence of Swedish corporate success and secretive dysfunctional family dynasties living in large mansions in remote country locations. There are clues along the way about where the story may be heading - but there are an equal number of red herrings to throw you off the scent. You are invited to pick your suspect in classic 'whodunnit' style - but of course you'll be wrong.
Yes the sexual violence is strong in one or two places. But this is not so much a story about that, as about hope, longing, betrayal, violation, love, intimacy, greed, justice, revenge and redemption. It is a story about the human condition.
The story is grippingly told, it is full on, it is engaging. The cinematography is first-class in every way. The acting is superb. The locations sensitively under-gird each scene. We saw a Swedish version with sub-titles which after a couple of hours did detract from viewing the main image. I understand there is a dubbed version on release - it might be better, but then you would not hear the intonation and inflection in the actors voices. You pays your money and you takes your choice.
Neither multiplex in our local town was showing this. We ended up going to a local Independent Cinema which whilst homely was not ideal in terms of noise pollution from outside and seats raked too shallowly. This is a Swedish release by Momentum Pictures and as such doesn't receive the same distribution as the big boys are able to achieve. Pity.
I understand that a Hollywood version is in pre-production starring George Clooney. This is also a pity as there is no way it will be able to come near to this version. A 90 minute version would have to miss out too many key elements of plot development that it would render it facile by comparison. The Swedes have the others in the trilogy already 'in the can' The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - I hope they gain wider critical acclaim and greater publicity than this film has received.
If you can stomach the hard scenes - go and see it! You will be rewarded.
I'll stick my neck out and give this 9/10.