The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo PosterRating: ★★★★★

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is an exceptional thriller that supplies just about everything you can expect from its genre: an unsolved crime, a devious villain, a collection of clues, a determined investigator, and a climactic sequence where they all come together. These elements are all aptly done, but our attention is captured by an enigmatic woman whose own vague life can be considered a puzzle that’s more perplexing than the one she occupies.

Her name is Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). She is a skilled surveillance agent and an ingenious computer hacker. Her face, firm and pierced, rarely reveals any form of emotion. Her dark, gothic look attracts our immediate interest, but even the most analytical of audience members cannot observe beyond her physical appearance. The dragon tattooed on her back, which we get to see once, is open to our interpretations, but that’s about as far our theories can go. She prefers to keep her secrets to herself. Conversations with Lisbeth occur only when necessary, and they usually end quickly. Moments where she secures her isolation are often “celebrated” with a lighting of a cigarette.

Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander

Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander

Lisbeth is a complex character whose present life is silenced by the scars of her past. Earlier scenes depict her encounters with depraved men; their harassment seems to carve further into an already existing wound. We get this impression because she responds to these offenses not as a weak and helpless victim, but as an audacious and adamant fighter. People who take a closer look at Lisbeth should recognize a subtle beauty. Perhaps she only uses her piercings and make-up as tools to conceal her looks from lustful eyes.

The story involves Lisbeth’s current surveillance of Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a journalist who’s six months away from a three-month sentence in jail.  Blomkvist intents are pure and righteous, but consequences can be great if you lose a legal battle against a powerful tycoon. In his remaining time of freedom, Blomkvist agrees to work for a retired, wealthy businessman named Henrik Vanger. This provides the plot for the movie, which follows Blomkvist’s investigation of Vanger’s missing niece, who first disappeared almost forty years ago.

Clues emerge. The case becomes broader and clearer as it points to a brutal massacre of innocent and unsuspecting women. And right there is when we fully identify the movie’s theme: Violence against women. We saw it first through Lisbeth’s suffering, and we see it again in the rape, murder, and mutilation of the women we come across in Blomkvist’s investigation. When Lisbeth herself learns about this tragedy, she teams up with Blomkvist in a mission to apprehend the killer.

Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander

Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander

Director Niels Arden Oplev is not hesitant to portray disturbing images where women are savagely abused. But the movie is entirely feminist. The late Stieg Larsson, who wrote the novel from which this movie is based upon, empowers Lisbeth as a woman who is brave, intelligent and independent. He views her as a survivor, destined to burst into a silent rage of furious anger once she encounters a monster guilty of the sins that broke her humanity.

This is a thriller that is more than what it’s about. The plot provides a gripping story, but its principal purpose is to accentuate the character of Lisbeth Salander. By the film’s end, we feel grateful to have been granted a mild access to her life. And though she retains her impenetrable persona, at least we can now look at Lisbeth and see that she’s more than just a girl with a dragon tattoo.


  1. the first movie was wonderful. Especially the girl was a perfect player.

    Second movie was also perfect, Lisbeth was not as psycho as she was in the previous version… But still was good…

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)