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Based on Stieg Larsson's literary phenomenon and featuring a breakthrough performance by Noomi Rapace, the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy follows the unlikely heroine Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist. First, as they unite to solve the case of a missing girl and then as they fight to uncover the truth about Salander's past, a past full of secrets that a mysterious underground government group would kill to keep hidden-- featuring two hours of feature content never released in North America, the extended versions of the films are now offered together in English and French for the first time. In the extended edition of the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy, get ready to get up close and personal with leading actors Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist; go behind-the-scenes of one of the most action-packed sequences in the trilogy and discover the man behind it all, author Stieg Larsson (1954-2004). --Kelsey Ganes
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Fans of Stieg Larsson's Men Who Hate Women may have been concerned about how the Swedish author's novel would translate to the screen, but they needn't have worried. Significant changes to the source material have been made, but director Niels Arden Opley's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as it's now called, is mostly riveting. As the story begins, middle-aged investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) has just been convicted of a bogus charge of libel against a rich and corrupt corporate hotshot when he's unexpectedly offered a most unusual gig. An aging captain of industry named Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) wants Blomkvist to figure out what happened to Vanger's niece, who disappeared more than 40 years earlier; not only is the old man convinced that she was murdered, but he suspects that another member of his large and rather disagreeable family (which includes several former Nazis) is the culprit. Blomkvist takes the job, which includes spending at least six months on Vanger's isolated island in the middle of winter. But what he doesn't know is that he's being spied on by twenty-something Lisbeth Salander (brilliantly played by Noomi Rapace in a career-making performance), the titular Girl and the possessor of remarkable skills as a sleuth and computer hacker. With her goth-like piercings and all-black clothes, Lisbeth is a vivid character, to say the least. While we don't exactly know the details of her dark past, it's obviously still with her; indeed, she's just been assigned a new "guardian" (like a parole officer) to look after her finances and other matters. We also know that she is not someone to mess with; when the guardian turns out to be a thoroughly vile monster, Lisbeth gets back at him in one of the more satisfying revenge sequences in recent memory. That Lisbeth and Mikael should end up working together, and more, isn't especially surprising. But the horrifying details and depths of depravity they uncover while working on the case (parallels to The Silence of the Lambs are facile but appropriate) definitely are, and Opley does a nice job of keeping it all straight. At more than two and a half hours, the film is long, with its share of grim, graphic, and scary moments, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a winner.
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The toughest chick in Sweden returns to action in The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second film adaptation of the late author Stieg Larsson's “Millennium Trilogy” novels. That would be Lisbeth Salander, once again played with quiet, feral intensity by Noomi Rapace. As Larsson's readers and anyone who saw the first film (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, also released in 2010) knows, Lisbeth is small in stature but big trouble for any man who crosses her--after all, this is the woman who set her father on fire after he abused her mother and later, after being released from a mental institution, took extreme revenge on her legal guardian after he brutally assaulted her (those scenes are briefly revisited for the enlightenment of those who missed the earlier film). Also back is investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), Lisbeth's erstwhile lover and partner in solving the Dragon Tattoo mystery. When two of his young colleagues are killed while at work on a story about sex trafficking, followed shortly by the murder of the aforementioned guardian, Salander is the prime suspect. But Mikael is sure of her innocence; in fact, he's convinced she's the next victim, leading to a tangled tale in which Lisbeth learns more about her family and its very dark secrets than she ever wanted to know. The story is compelling, if a bit slow to take shape, and director Daniel Alfredson, taking over for Niels Arden Oplev, skillfully sustains the mystery and tension (there are also doses of nudity and violence, the latter much more graphic than the former). But Lisbeth isn't on screen nearly as much this time, and her relationship with Blomkvist, so central to the Dragon Tattoo, is almost an afterthought. Still, The Girl Who Played with Fire will certainly whet fans' appetites for the next installment, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest; and considering the overall class and quality of these Swedish productions, one shudders to think how they'll turn out in the inevitable American versions, the first of which is due in 2011, with Daniel Craig as Blomkvist.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
It takes a while, but the saga of one of the more fascinating characters put on the page or the screen in recent years comes to a satisfying conclusion with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the last installment of the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson's so-called "Millennium Trilogy." That character is Lisbeth Salander, the computer-hacking, Goth-loving, dark angel of revenge, played by Noomi Rapace with the same black stare and taciturn charisma that were so riveting in the first two films (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, both also released in 2010).
When we last saw her, Lisbeth was trying to kill her father, a Russian defector and abusive monster; in the process, the girl was seriously wounded by her half-brother, a hulking freak with a strange condition that renders him impervious to physical pain. As the new film opens, all three are still alive, and she's being taken to a hospital to recover while waiting to stand trial for attempted murder. Meanwhile, her champion and erstwhile lover, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), sets about uncovering the full extent of the conspiracy responsible for (among other crimes) Lisbeth's being sent to an asylum at age 12 while her father was protected by evil forces within the government.This investigation, which puts not only Lisbeth but also Blomkvist and his colleagues in considerable danger, leads to "the Section," a thoroughly repellent bunch of aging liars, killers, thieves, and perverts with a great many secrets they'd like to keep (the oily Dr. Peter Teleborian, who was responsible for Lisbeth's "treatment" as a child, emerges as the most vile antagonist since the guardian who brutally assaulted her in the first film).
Although much of the exhaustive detail about these and other matters has been eliminated by director Daniel Alfredson (who also helmed The Girl Who Played with Fire) and screenwriters Jonas Frykberg and Ulf Ryberg for the purpose of adapting the novel to the screen, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is still quite long (148 minutes), and less kinetic and violent than the earlier films; there are some exciting sequences, but Lisbeth, previously an unlikely but magnetic action heroine, is seen mostly on a hospital bed or in a courtroom, and much of the film is spent on procedural matters. Still, the fact that the loose ends are wrapped up in fairly conventional fashion doesn't make the conclusion any less satisfying. In fact, the only real letdown comes from knowing that we won't get to see Noomi Rapace play Lisbeth Salander again. --Sam Graham