Jet-black hair, spiked collar, enough piercings to make magnets hazardous to her bone structure… and beneath the surface, a cauldron of victimised anger, photographic memory and poor social skills.
As computer hacker Lisbeth in this superb Swedish thriller, Noomi Rapace is a vision of gothic torment: a star is bjorn.
Rapace is so compelling, like some neo-punk Pippi Longstocking, that Michael Nyqvist’s crusading financial journalist can’t help paling in comparison. His more passive approach still yields dividends, however, as they become a chalk/ cheese detective duo, hired by aged industrialist Henrik Vanger to solve the 40-year disappearance of his niece Harriet. Skeletons clatter from the Vangers’ family closet, and a serial killer looms large…
Director Niels Arden Oplev’s directorial hand is strong and sure, instilling a slow-burn build-up that, if it weren’t for a shocking detour involving Lisbeth’s sadistic guardian, would play like a classic parlour story. Supremely efficient in its storytelling, it’s also acutely atmospheric and suspenseful – perhaps mild compared to the shock-and-gore of Hollywood serial-killer thrillers, but not without its gut-punching moments.
True, two films do not a cinema revolution make, but after Let The Right One In and this, Swedish film is concreting a rep for taut, involving genre pieces that bridge the subtitle divide. Better still, Dragon Tattoo is based on the first book in novelist Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, with the remaining two adaps due in a matter of months.
Best of all, they both star Rapace. Consider us tantalised.
Great characters, strapping story, ominous ambience and a phenomenal lead performance: the hype is fully justified.