If Nancy Drew had a dysfunctional older sister, she would be Lisbeth Salander, the ultra-brilliant and impossibly angsty heroine at the center of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Adapted from the novel of the same name from the Millennium Trilogy, a series of bestselling crime novels by the late Swedish journalist and writer Stieg Larsson, this Swedish film offers not only the delicious suspense of a well-crafted whodunit but also a dark glimpse into the callousness and depravity of the human soul.
The story starts as an investigative thriller typically would—with an unsolved missing person case. In this case, the industrialist Henrik Vanger, a member of the powerful Vanger clan, has sought the help of Mikael Blomkvist (one of Sweden’s biggest movie stars, Michael Nyqvist), a middle-aged journalist to find out the truth behind the disappearance of his beloved niece, Harriet, 40 years ago. Enter troubled computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, played by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace with such an intensity and magnetism she makes Angelina Jolie’s Acid Burn (1995’s Hackers) look like a bland, prim schoolgirl. No thanks to her nosey hacking, she inadvertently gets pulled into the passenger seat of Blomkvist’s journey into the past as he seeks to unravel the mystery of what really happened on the Vanger grounds 40 years ago—the findings of which are explosive enough to reconcile both of them with their own past.
For a crime thriller, the pace isn’t exactly what one would call relentless; the real draw is in the rich complexity of the characters, and rightfully so, as the payoff the audience gets at the end is directly proportionate to how well they identify with the emotionally walled-off yet feisty Lisbeth and the wronged yet ever-gentle Mikael. Yes, a Hollywood version is in the pipeline, in case you’re wondering—with Daniel Craig pretty much confirmed for the lead role.