I've tried to read the book by Stieg Larsson, and I stopped and started up until about p.85. No doubt I won't finish it now. If the film is any indication, those planning to read the books then see the Swedish films are looking forward to a hell of a lot of violence in a sea of boringness. The American remakes are supposed to be "toned down"; God let 'em, if they're going to be "made with grace and style," as Ebert would say. If they're going to be mirrors of the sloppily adapted, badly written and scored original, let's just say there's one ticket lost.
The plot, for those of whom didn't read the book (which the film whips through so fast it feels like you did futile reading): Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) keeps getting framed flowers in the mail, one per birthday, for every year since his brother's daughter Harriet, who was the "apple of his eye," was murdered. He assumes it's the killer. Okay. So then, for some reason, he wants to solve this case again. So he brings on Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who's a journalist who got set up and then cut down "for libel." There's a special reason (at least I think): Blomkvist's nanny was Harriet. But wait. He's waited this long to contact this guy if he's "the one"? And he's done it in the six months "before he serves his sentence"? Why?
Whatever. So Blomkvist comes and starts investigating and what do you know, he starts uncovering dirt that had never been found. So it takes an un-jaded reporter to get moderately far? I guess. Moderately far is the objective phrase there, though. He does blow up some pictures and he does find a bible with weird codes it (which are idiotically mistaken for phone numbers; why would someone put freaking phone numbers in a bible?), but he can't go that extra inch, as there's a photo of a guy he can't see and that would be operative to solving this whole deal, since in this picture she's looking worriedly at someone and of course, that someone has to be the killer. So he acquires a partner, after she sends him what the codes mean and does it so he can easily trace her. This is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has been hacking Blomkvist's computer for a long time. As the characters put it, she knows everything about him, but he knows nothing about her. She writes a profile on him to give to the head of her security company, so she needs to constantly watch him and steal his information (this section is very detailed in the book and is so dashed off in the film that it will leave book readers knowledgeable but angry and film viewers blissfully ignorant; maybe we could have gotten rid of that whole "I am a sadist pig and a rapist" section that was bemoaned by Toro and heard more about this; it establishes the character of Salander much better) but she gets interested after she gets done with finding out what he's currently doing and she solves the codes and brings herself into the whole ordeal.So they spend the latter half of the film finding out things in cliché ways. For example, we're subjected to ridiculously obvious jump scares when Blomkvist goes to investigate. Also we get many scenes of people flipping frantically through library books. Plus, shots lingering forever on "photos of mutilated women," done in religious killings ripped from the Bible. Um... isn't this like a total ripoff of "Se7en" by David Fincher? (No wonder they're getting him to direct the Americanization of the material. He'll just be directing his past again.)
There were times I wished I walked out of the film. I wish I had after I saw the stupid tack-on ending and how the film delves into flashbacks of Lisbeth's childhood to try to make you watch the other films. I'm not interested enough in any way. Rapace I would agree is good. She has a fight scene with a beer bottle that is easily the film's most exciting and interesting, and it doesn't involve rape (although it does involve an attack in a subway). If she wasn't in the film, it would be bad across the board. Without her, there would be absolutely no reason to see this film. And I'll admit, isolated, the mystery of Harriet is interesting. Except for the fact that it was, as people have said, just another excuse to show "sexism" and "violence toward women" in Sweden. Ebert was right: "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is a good title. Made me read the book and want to see the film. But it's a little bit of false advertising. "Men Who Hate Women" is much more appropriate. C-
Warning: this film would be a hard R in the United States for "Sexuality including sexual assaults, violence, disturbing images, and language." Plus it committed the crime of making me feel, like Ebert feels sometimes, "dirty."
Also, if you want a film that's a mystery that's not done poorly and doesn't involve extreme violence, see "The Ghost Writer." The film's second half is amazing. It was a great film experience.
Update: the film did actually pick up an R rating after I saw it for "disturbing violent content including rape, grisly images, sexual material, nudity, and language." So I sort of called it. Not the sort of thing I would walk into if I had seen the rating.