Sweden isn’t for Women: A review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson’s murder/thriller series about The Girl Who Did This or That has been all the rage recently, especially in Europe, so I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. Now, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novel is thick as hell and expensive in Japan, so I opted for the free downloaded movie instead. Better to waste 2 hours than 2 weeks, I always say.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a by the numbers thriller that offers nothing new, engaging, or even remotely interesting. It does feature plenty of explicit acts of sexual violence against women. So if you’re looking for a bland murder mystery punctuated by rape and incest scenes, have I got a recommendation for you.

The film features a hero and a heroine. The heroine is a tough as nails 24 year-old Goth chick with a troubled past named Lisbeth Salander. At least, I’m assuming she had a troubled past; the movie doesn’t reveal too much back story. But she has tattoos, piercings, fucks women, and makes a habit of watching men burn alive in their cars, so I’m assuming her childhood was rather traumatic. She is a master hacker with a photographic memory; both are convenient traits for the protagonist of a murder mystery. However, Lisbeth is very ably played by Noomi Rapace, who fills the character with just enough intensity to counterbalance her insecurities and weaknesses. She plays against the older, passive pussy Mikael Blomkvist, who is an investigative journalist and a boring human being. He is less ably played by Michael Nyqvist. Mikael was recently convicted of libel, and has 6 months of freedom before he has to go to jail. What does this have to do with the main story? Absolutely nothing. But it does provide nice filler for the beginning and end of the movie, and provides a nice little cash ex machina for Lisbeth to become rich at the end using her hacking abilities. Then again, if all she had to do to get rich was hack wealthy peoples’ bank accounts, why not do it sooner? Treading into spoiler territory now…

Back to the main plot, the two sleuths are brought together by the disappearance and possible murder of Harriet Vanger 40 years ago. Why are they investigating something that happened 40 years ago? That’s a good question, and one the plot never resolves satisfactorily because, honestly, everything could have been resolved 40 years ago…Anyway, Harriet is part of the super wealthy Vanger family, who own a large, rich company, and all live on an island, accessible by one bridge, and who are all shifty, shady individuals that make convenient suspects for the crime. But the limited suspect list is a mystery convention older than sand in the Sahara, so it’s hard to blame the movie for that.

They work well together, and in the course of their investigation, done mostly through Mac OS X and looking at the same 2 pictures for 90 minutes, they uncover even more murders and possible ties to antisemitism and Nazis. A Nazi bad guy?! Someone call the originality police. They also have sex. I’m not sure why. I think the director felt obligated to exploit a love interest somewhere in the movie. Although there’s also a semi-developed love interest between Mikael and an older lady on the island during the first 30 minutes for some reason…I’m not totally convinced the makers of the movie knew what they were doing. Everything builds up to a pretty standard ending, with the killer revealing his exact reasons for doing all he’s done, though in all fairness he does give us a very frank answer with “It was the sex, mainly.” He also conveniently kept pictures and names of all his victims in the room he used to kill everyone. So much in the film is so convenient! Another weakness of the film is that after the killer is discovered and defeated, the movies doesn’t end. It goes on for like another half hour, and adds in the added spice of incest into all the rape we’ve been subjected to. Come on! Just end it!

The chilly Swedish setting fits the thriller atmosphere well though, much better than the plot, unfortunately. However, the forbidding island and its frosty inhabitants feel underused, and there’s never a sense of suspense or urgency, even in scenes involving guns and chases and danger.

The movie also features several very graphic scenes of bondage and rape. They serve to highlight the film’s very feminist orientation, but unfortunately straddle the line a little too close to exploitation for my tastes. Did I mention the film’s feminist leanings? Seriously, having a penis should be a crime in Sweden.  If you’re a woman living in Sweden, get the hell out. Something bad will happen to you, or already has.

In case you haven’t noticed, I did not like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo very much, and do not recommend it. I’ll admit, I haven’t read the book, so it could conceivably be worthwhile, but the film adaptation certainly isn’t.

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