The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo 

Essentially a locked-room mystery with lashings of gore and sexual brutality, Niels Arden Oplev's adaptation of Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo relies more on the mystery, but it has two complex, compelling leads driving its story. Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a disgraced investigative journalist, is asked by industrialist Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) to investigate the disappearance of his niece from a family reunion 40 years ago. A finite number of suspects emerge, mostly members of Vanger's hugely dysfunctional dynasty: aged Swedish Nazis, old aunts, creepy brothers and cousins. Blomkvist teams up with Lisbeth Salander, who is the true star of Larsson's books, a state-raised, quasi-autistic computer hacker with a horrifying past and an alarmingly black-and-white sense of morality. Played by Noomi Rapace, Salander is a walking time bomb of injuries and resentments. Together they disinter the Vanger family's grotesque secrets, while somebody — a still-active, serial sex murderer, perhaps? — uses increasingly violent methods to try to stop them. An elegant contraction of the novel, discarding Blomkvist's sexual bravado and thus saving Larsson from his own worst tendencies, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo may be a shallower experience than the book, but it has a headlong velocity all its own. Catch it before the inevitable U.S. remake.

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