If you've read Stieg Larsson's excellent novel, you'll have conjured a mental picture of heroine Lisbeth Salander. Gothic? Thin? Determined? Relatively flat chested? She is such a fascinating character – a fiercely intelligent computer hacker with supposed behavioural problems that make her unable to lead an independent existence – that the casting of the role has to be spot on, otherwise it simply won't live up to one's enthusiastic expectations.
All praise then to Rapace, who's absolutely perfect, fulfilling all the attributes one is hoping for in Salander. She looks the part to a tee, and is unafraid to appear hard-nosed and unsympathetic. As the young bisexual outcast with extraordinary talents she is the core of this thrilling adaptation and expertly imbues the character with subtle psychological shading. She is partnered by Nyqvist as famed reporter Michael Blomkvist. The journalist has been hired by the wealthy tycoon Henrik Vanger (Taube) to trace his niece Harriet, who disappeared from his estate more than 40 years ago. Blomkvist, recently convicted of libel for allegedly misreporting facts about a dodgy financial institution, reluctantly takes up the assignment and gets more than he bargained for. The Vanger family extends to numerous members with dark secrets and violent tendencies.
His life is soon endangered and he enlists the aid of Salander to help him with his research in this puzzling case. Her elaborate and skillful computer skills are not enough however to ward off the attempts on their lives. They form an awkward, uneasy alliance at first, but slowly grow comfortable with each other, with Blomkvist continually surprised and perplexed by his cohort's temperament. If you've not read the book then it would be invidious to give too much away. But what can be said is that this is an exemplary adaptation. Yes, it jettisons a couple of minor subplots from the novel, namely the reporter's talent for bedding women, such as his publisher and one of the Vanger family members, but the overall plot is deftly handled, complicated though it is. One has to pay attention, but it's smartly done, drawing you in to a compelling and rivetting scenario where not a moment is wasted, the two-and-a-half hour running time flying by.
It's also quite moving by the end as the the revelations are revealed, finishing on a satisfyingly sardonic note as it paves the way for the sequel. A terrific start to the trilogy then and highly recommended. I now can't wait to see Rapace play with fire.