Films that you would classify as a “thriller” need to remember that genre and stick to it. If they don’t, and they veer into the drama territory, they end up becoming a bore to watch. You need something to keep you intrigued throughout, and if there is a mystery to be solved, the majority of the time, the characters should be working in some way to solve it.
This is even more important when you have a long runtime. Unless you’ve got a very complex story to tell, movies should rarely exceed two hours. It’s at about that time that bad movies can still be enjoyable. After you reach two hours, the bad movies really stand out as bad, and the only reason you continue to watch it because if you’ve already invested a significant amount of time into the film, you’ll feel obligated to see it through to the end and receive your conclusion. For the record, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is 152 minutes long.
The story opens up with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) being sentenced to three months in prison for falsely accusing some big businessman of some crime. It doesn’t matter what it is, and it makes no difference for the vast majority of the film. After this conviction, he receives a phone call asking him for his help. Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) is asking for his assistance. He wants Mikael to attempt to solve a 40-year-old murder case. His niece, Harriet, disappeared one day many years ago, and he suspects murder. Apparently, it takes that long to gather enough evidence to contact a journalist for help.
This journalist has a stalker. Her name’s Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), and she’s been following Mikael for a while now—that’s her job. She’s hacked his computer and gathered evidence on him; she’s even taken pictures of him from afar. After hacking his computer once more, she finds out about the Harriet case and becomes interested. She also becomes involved and, eventually, the pair sets out, working together, to solve the case.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a thriller/mystery film. The main case does take up most of the time for the characters, and it’s an interesting mystery to have the characters solve. It’s nothing special, and it wasn’t hard for me to guess how it would end by around the mid-way point, but it serves well as a plot device. The techniques used in solving the central mystery are also interesting. We get to see the way a journalist would actually attempt to solve the issue at hand, using whatever resources he has at his disposal to look for evidence and figure things out.
For a thriller that goes over two hours in length, it managed to keep me entertained.
And then there is Lisbeth, who is more intriguing than the plot just by being on-screen. We initially know very little about her except that she enjoys piercings, is very sharp-witted, and will become very aggressive if things don’t go the way she wants them to. We see this as she tortures her probation officer part-way through the film; she will go to any extent in order to exact revenge upon those who have wronged her. In this film, it is always men that do her wrong.
This makes sense, of course, considering the original title, literally translated, would be “Men Who Hate Women”. Some of the things that Lisbeth does in this film come across as the opposite of that title. She is the one with the hatred. But of course, she has a good reason, as we find out over the duration of the film. We still don’t get as much information from her as we’d like though, and I suppose that makes her even more intriguing.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is ultimately too long though. I shudder when I think of the Millenium mini-series that extends the length by 30 minutes, because it seems to me that there is already enough padding going on. A lot of early scenes end up having very little to do with the plot and only serve to give us an introduction to our characters. Not a bad idea, but we get the idea way before the scenes end.
Thankfully, the plot ends up ensnaring us and we eventually forget how long the film actually is. After the plot kicks into high gear, there are a few twists that will make you question if you’ve guessed the ending correctly (you probably have; don’t worry), and enough characters involved to keep you engaged. There are quite a few people to remember though, and it’s definitely a good thing that the leads have incredible memories so that you don’t have to think too hard.
I liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. For a thriller that goes over two hours in length, it managed to keep me entertained. It did get off to a weak start, and there was some padding that could have been removed, but once the plot kicks into high gear, the mystery that the two leads have to solve will keep you engaged. The characters are all interesting, and since not all that much is explained about them, we continually question their past, and what makes them who they are today. I don’t think the word “fun” should be applied to this movie though, but it’s certainly something you should give a look.
Conclusion: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is entertaining enough to justify its running time.
Recommendation: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo kicks off a great trilogy; all three films are worth seeing.