Män som hatar kvinnor, or, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is the original 2009 Swedish film adaptation of the Stieg Larsson‘s book. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, it tells the story of a disgraced investigative journalist named Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), the editor of Millenium magazine after his conviction for libel against a massively wealthy and corrupt businessman. His part-time lover and another editor of the magazine Erika Berger (Lena Endre) still supports him, but Blomkvist decides to take some time away from the magazine and is lured into industrialist Henrik Vanger’s (Sven-Bertil Taube) family mystery concerning the disappearance of his niece forty years previous, promising to investigate in exchange for a substantial fee and what Vanger claims is material which will allow Blomkvist to attack his corrupt businessman once again.
This is the first in a trilogy of films that follows the series of books surrounding Millenium magazine and the character to whom the title refers, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). Salander is employed by a large, private security and investigations firm and is responsible for completing the background report on Blomkvist which is used by Vanger to ensure he is hiring the correct person to the investigation into the disappearance of his niece. She is completely unconventional and shocking in many ways to the viewer, having had an extraordinarily disturbing childhood which leaves her unable to legally manage her own private affairs without the guidance of an attorney.
The film follows the life of Salander as she endures shocking levels of abuse at the hands of her caretaker attorney and her vengeance against those who wrong her and other women. She teams up with Blomkvist after he reads the background report she prepared and he decides he needs a research assistant to better investigate the disappearance of the Vanger niece. The relationship is complicated by sexual tension between Blomkvist and Salander, who become lovers as well as partners in the investigation and the film takes on the role of a thriller centering upon a bizarre series of murders which seem to be tied to the disappearance of Henrik Vanger’s niece.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a simply fantastic movie with an engrossing plot, exquisite acting, superb direction and a very nice pace. Oplev’s skill is so impressive that the English-language remake of the film, even with the expert direction of David Fincher, is essentially the same movie, but without the subtitles and Swedish. What better compliment from one director to another than to recognize excellence and not try to outdo it with excessive changes in tone, dialogue, characters or plot?