Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Grade D


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Michael Nyqvist, Noomie Rapace; Director Niels Arden Oplev. (Swedish, subtitled)

I have not read the international blockbuster bestseller, but that’s OK because a movie has to stand on its own two feet, but this one barely can kneel. A disgraced newspaper reporter (Nyqvist) hires out as a detective to solve a 40 year old cold case, the murder of a young childcare nanny who, as it turns out was his own caretaker. Working for a wealthy industrialist, head of a large wealthy clan of families, he sniffs around until he gets a few clues.

Meanwhile, the eponymous “Girl,” a sort of hip goth type, (Rapace) helps him out with data she has hacked, although they don’t know each other and we don’t know her motive for helping. We learn that she lives on a trust fund but must beg (and worse) for her allowance from an evil executor (who gets a grisly comeuppance at her hand eventually). She does have a fabulous dragon tattoo on her back however, for reasons unknown, but that is quite irrelevant to the story. Her little drama with the fund administrator has nothing to do with the decades-old murder mystery, but it is actually the interesting part of the movie.

The murder mystery rambles on and on with various twists and turns, all of which seem manufactured and not integral to the plot. The “evidence,” such as it is, is mostly pictures of pictures: photographs, newspapers, and computer screens, all of which we see repeatedly, in case we are losing the thread of the story, which is easy to do. That is poor directing, poor basic storytelling even, but consistent with the equally weak technique of telling the audience the story with line after line of endless dialog instead of showing the story by having characters react to conflict. You really have to be a fast reader and can hardly take your eyes off the subtitles to watch the movie, because the whole screenplay is so incredibly wordy.

In the end, the bad guy is caught and his/her motive is utterly lame, but that is consistent with the quality of the rest of the screenplay. Some fairly good acting, especially by Rapace, redeems the film from complete failure.

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