The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I implore you to see this Swedish film, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," directed by Niels Arden Oplev, based on the first novel in a trilogy by the recently deceased (2004) Stieg Larsson quickly before Hollywood releases their version. In fact, it's now in pre-production but hasn't been cast. Once you see the original, you won't believe that director David Fincher and producer Scott Rudin are considering for the leads Brad Pitt and Scarlett Johanssen (among others equally unsuited, except for Daniel Craig, whom I can see in the role of Mikael Blomkvist, the investigative journalist).

Mikael Blomkvist (strongly played by a rugged Michael Nyqvist) is a dedicated investigative journalist at an independent newspaper. He's about to go to prison in six months for an article he'd written about a corrupt politician/corporate honcho. Instead, he is the one found guilty for defamation of character - - or something, and is sentenced. Until he has to show up to serve time, he gets hired by the patriarch, Martin Vanger (Peter Haber), of the hugely wealthy Vanger family conglomerate. Vanger wants him to find a favorite niece who went missing some forty years ago when she was seventeen. Since she was never found, she is presumed dead, yet Martin believes she's alive. The extended Vanger family lives in separate estates on the island reachable by the only bridge to the mainland. Seems Mikael lived there as a child; his dad did some manual labor for the family. The missing girl once baby sat him, and Mikael, as many a six year old would, became besotted (there are flashbacks). Mikael meets and interviews the family - - people who change clothes several times a day and dress for dinner even though they've no guests. They've been through it all before and barely tolerate him. The family comes off as totally out of touch and their wealth isolates them from having to deal with, well, life, and all those "others."

The subplot involves brooding, dark Lisbeth Salander (a superb, perfectly cast Noomi Rapace). Salandar is an intriguing young woman who, with beaucoo piercings, tattoos, black leather, stompin' boots, and metal accessories, is straight out of a William Gibson novel. She hacks her way into government and corporate protected web sites. Lisbeth had bounced around foster homes and now, as a young woman, is a ward of the state and must report to a "guardian," periodically. Her current guardian, Nils Bjurman (creepily played by Peter Andersson) exerts the price of extreme sexual abuse on her when she requests extra funding for a new computer. Her lap-top was damaged during an attack by a pack of hooligans in a subway. Later, she avenges the terrible wrongs she endured by Bjurman; though harrowing, it feels justified.

Mikael, in his computer searches, realizes his sites are being hacked and this is how the two meet. She becomes his partner in solving the mystery of the missing girl, and his lover. This beautifully shot- - in wintry grey and blue tones (in Denmark and Sweden) - - suspenseful film is not only a detective story about a missing girl, it expands into the discovery of a serial killer of young women that had taken place over decades. Blomqvist and Salandar also unravel a deep family secret going back to the Third Reich. For all its flashbacks and plot twists, it moves along smoothly and reaches a fulfilling conclusion. (In Swedish with English subtitles.)

Hollywood is scheduled to film Larsson's final books of the trilogy: "The Girl Who Played with Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," known collectively as the Millennium Trilogy, "Millennium" being the name of Mikael Blomkvist's paper. All the more reason to see this film!