When I think of dragon tattoos, I think of overweight, middle-aged men sat outside British pubs called The George that casually place BNP flyers on the bar. And in the toilets. And stuffed inside every Kick-‘Em-Out ice cream sundae, like little papery flakes of racial intolerance. You know the kind of tattoos: those really horrid bluey-greeny faded ones, yellowed over the years by an abundance of nicotine and cirrhosis of the liver.
Thankfully though, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is set in rural Sweden, not Burnley, and while it may be the world’s most blue-eyed-blonde-haired country, the movie isn’t a tribute to white supremacy. In fact, Millennium Trilogy author Stieg Larsson was an ardent Trotskyist, so on the political spectrum sat a good few places to the left of Nick Griffin and his loveable ilk.
Larsson’s communist outlook in mind, it’s hardly surprising that corporationy corporations and Nazis in the story aren‘t portrayed too favourably. The coporationy Nazis are even more rubbish, evidently painted in light conditions similar to those of Christmas at the North Pole circa 10,000BC. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Dragon Tattoo is the story of an investigative journalist (Mikael Blomkvist) who wrote a damning exposé on a big bastard corporationy tycoon (Hans-Erik Wennrström) and his shady business practices. He’s subsequently done for libel, but with six months before he has to serve his sentence is inexplicably summoned to the countryside mansion of Henrik Vanger – another (now retired and reformed) big bastardy corportationy man.
On the strength of his previous investigative work and a tenuous personal connection, Vanger commissions him to look into the disappearance of Harriet, his beloved niece and the only person in his family he didn’t consider a selfish, money and power-obsessed bellend. Henrik reveals she vanished the day of a Vanger Corporation family meeting forty years back and that he’s always suspected one of them had her killed. Accepting the task, Blomkvist starts to unravel a mystery far more complex and blah, blah, blah, you get the idea.
As the original Swedish title Men Who Hate Women suggests, there’s a lot of horribly misogynistic guys in the story too – some of them even corporationy Nazi types to make them XXL-sized arseholes. Noomi Rapace brilliantly plays Lisbeth, a super-intelligent computer hacker with a history of psychiatric issues, who is forced to live under state guardianship – sort of a parole system for mentals. When her existing ‘guardian’ is taken ill, his replacement proves to be particularly odious.
Their resulting relationship ensures she’d make an excellent guest on a spoiler-free Jeremy Kyle show entitled I [------] And [-------] And Got [--------] By [---------] But Took The Bestest Revenge Ever. Let’s just say Graham and the aftercare team’d have their work cut out with Lisbeth Salander. Before long she crosses paths with Blomkvist and they form an unlikely mystery-solving duo. Yet despite their chalk-cheese/Iran-Israel personalities, it works. Surprisingly well. A number of their awkward, stilted exchanges add welcome pockets of comic relief to some otherwise grim and disturbing subject matter.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a dark and engaging whodunnit, if not a little trite and at times too convenient for its own good. But then it’s a foreign language film which of course instantly forgives many of its minor shortcomings and by default makes it 25% more highbrow. Beautifully shot and paced far, far better than this review, it’s over two and half hours long but doesn’t drag on. Drag on. Dragon Tattoo is unlikely to disappoint too much, unless you’re sat outside The George enjoying one of those Kick-‘Em-Out sundaes, in which case Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will may be more up your street. Just like that new Indian family at number 32. Enjoy.