Millennium 1: film of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Lisbeth Millennium 1 is the film based on the best-selling and superb novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, a book which very successfully combines the thriller with the traditional detective story as well as having a strong social conscience. Together with Karen of Euro Crime, I was lucky enough to be offered a ticket to the premiere, part of the current Film 4 FrightFest season in London, by the lovely people at Quercus, the UK publisher of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy.

The film is an initially alarming 150 minutes long, but boredom hasn't a chance as the pace and action never let up for a second after the start in which journalist Mikael Blomqvist (played by Michael Nyqvist) is tried and imprisoned for slandering Hans Wennerstrom, head of a multinational company. The film moves through this part of the plot in double-quick fashion, missing out virtually all the publishing and relationship dynamics of Millennium magazine and briskly moving on to the lonely Henrik Vanger (Sven Bertil-Taube)’s last-ditch attempt to find out what happened to his niece Harriet, who disappeared without trace one summer in the 1960s.

Vanger and his lawyer hire a firm of private investigators to check out Mikael, who is out of work after resigning from Millennium and awaiting his jail sentence,  before asking him to re-open the Harriet case. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is a young computer hacker who does the investigative work for the agency – and this is where the film bursts into another dimension. Clearly unhinged and dangerous, Lisbeth is a punky drop-out, a be-metalled, aggressive rebel – black of eye and hair – with no interpersonal skills. Paring the descriptive aspects of the book to the bone, we strongly identify with Lisbeth – how she falls into the power of an abusive guardian, and how she exacts revenge.

The film cracks on at blistering pace as Lisbeth and Mikael combine expertise and forces to discover the secret at the heart of the Vanger family. The film strips out most of the extraneous details, including the subterfuge that Mikael is writing a biography of the family, with the result that the tracking down of the crimes occurs with cracking drive and makes the mystery of Lisbeth sharper and clearer – why is she a ward of court and a delinquent? Why does she behave with such vicious drama? We can’t wait until the next film to find out (even though I already know part of the answer!).

What more can I write? The acting is without exception superb; the story is brilliantly adapted from the book in the sense that it is faithful to it without being over-wordy or over-respectful to it; Lisbeth in particular is a fantastic filmic creation, given bright life and intense, dangerous energy by the superb personification of Noomi Rapace, a feminist avenger of men who hate women.

I haven’t seen a film as good as this for years, and I can’t believe I’ll see another one to beat it for quite some time. Unfortunately it is not on general release in the UK until next Spring, but let us hope that the second two films in the trilogy follow very soon after that. I’ll be first in the queue.

More information about the film, together with Karen’s review, is at Euro Crime.
Trailers of the film, and more, at Stieg Larsson's website.
My reviews of the books The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.
Quercus, Stieg Larsson's UK publisher.
Yellow Bird (film production company) Millennium trilogy website. (Yellow Bird also produces the Wallender TV series in Sweden.)

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