Few books cause a worldwide fervor and so instantly see themselves made into films. Gone with the Wind, The Godfather are other members of this class, but none have had such a dark tone. Steig Larsson managed to capture a zeitgeist with his tale of a journalist and hacker fighting against Neo-Nazis to solve a decades-old-crime.
Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) has been offered a great deal of money by respected industrialist Henrik Vanger to inspect the disappearance of his niece, who has been gone for forty years. The job offer would come across as odd if Mikael weren't currently disgraced after a libel suit went against him.
Still, Harriet's disappearance peaks Mikael's curiosity. He takes the elder Vanger on his deal, but Henrik's job offer comes with a warning: he will have to investigate the other members of the Vanger clan.
Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) makes her living on the outskirts of society. A computer hacker by trade, she trades in formal dress wear and a cubicle for piercings and dim lighting. She comes across Mikael's investigation by accident, but she too finds the case intriguing.
Given Lisbeth is the titular character, it comes as a surprise that she figures into the film much less than Mikael. Noomi Rapace does her level best to pull Lisbeth off the page, but she just doesn't have the inner nastiness to do it. Even when fending off her very forward court-appointed guardian, that venom never comes out.
Niels Arden Oplev crafts the thriller as best he can, but the characters are dull and don't seem to differentiate from the snowy backgrounds. Blomkvist in particular seems an unlikely ally to draw in Lisbeth. A journalist with a tongue silver enough to convince Ms. Salander to assist him in an investigation would make more of an impression on the audience. Whether that is on Nyqvist or the source material is hard to decide.
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn't flinch at its subject matter and for that thanks should be given. Adaptations find themselves neutered when going from page to the screen. However, as the twists and turns pile on top of the clues Lisbeth and Mikael compile, it becomes quite apparent who the killer is.
Condensing a three-hundred page book into two hours is an arduous task, but the pacing lingers in places it shouldn't. Tedious passages that could have been slashed from the novel surprisingly make it into the film.
Lisbeth is an interesting character, but the film doesn't display her prowess.