The Millennium Trilogy
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (October 9/10)
Based on the first novel in Stieg Larsson's bestselling trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo follows disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) as he agrees to help an aging industrialist solve a 40-year-old crime - with Mikael eventually enlisting the services of an antisocial researcher/hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). Much like the book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo unfolds at a deliberate pace that admittedly does take some getting used to, as filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev, working from a script by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg, takes his time in developing both the characters and the progressively convoluted mystery that ultimately drives the narrative forward. There's also little doubt that like its literary inspiration, the movie is generally far more enthralling when focused on Salander's exploits - as the character's inherently compelling nature is effectively heightened by Rapace's almost stunningly note-perfect performance (ie she really does become the Lisbeth Salander that's described in the books). Nyqvist is certainly just as good as Blomkvist, yet he and the movie's various periphery performers are simply unable to hold the viewer's interest to the same extent as Rapace. It's also worth noting that although the movie boasts a midsection that sporadically feels like Law and Order: Sweden, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does improve steadily as it goes along and as the various pieces start to fall into place - with Oplev's stylish directorial choices proving instrumental in establishing (and sustaining) the film's impressively suspenseful atmosphere. The final result is an adaptation that's just about as successful as its literary predecessor, with the film occasionally exceeding the book in a few areas (ie the decision to do away with most of the Wennerstrom stuff).
The Girl Who Played With Fire (December 2/10)
The Millennium trilogy continues in The Girl Who Played With Fire, with the complicated storyline following Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) as he finds himself embroiled in a far-reaching conspiracy after launching an investigation into Sweden's sex trade - while Noomi Rapace's Lisbeth Salander is forced to go on the run after she's accused of committing three murders. Though quite faithful to Stieg Larsson's superb novel, The Girl Who Played With Fire ultimately comes off as an underwhelming followup to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - as the movie boasts an almost unreasonably deliberate pace that ensures that it generally feels longer than its superior predecessor (despite the fact that it actually runs a half hour shorter). It's also clear virtually from the get-go that the change in directors - Niels Arden Oplev has been replaced by Daniel Alfredson - contributes to the film's disappointing vibe, as Alfredson is simply unable to replicate Oplev's lush, intensely cinematic visual sensibilities (and, it has to be noted, Alfredson doesn't fare too well with the movie's action-oriented sequences, either). Having said that, The Girl Who Played With Fire is nevertheless a consistently watchable and periodically enthralling drama that benefits substantially from Rapace's stellar work - as the actress' captivating turn as Lisbeth Salander remains a high point within the series and ensures that the movie comes alive whenever the focus is placed on her character's exploits. The entertaining yet unspectacular atmosphere cements the movie's place as a mild disappointment, as, given the strength of the source material, The Girl Who Played With Fire should have been nothing less than gripping from start to finish.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (November 14/11)
The third and final entry in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest follows Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) as they deal with the fallout from the events of the previous film - with Mikael forced to take the lead as hospital-bound Lisbeth recovers from her various wounds and, eventually, heads to court on a murder charge. Unlike its two predecessors, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest boasts a briskly-paced opening half hour that proves effective at immediately drawing the viewer into the movie - as filmmaker Daniel Alfredson dives straight into the increasingly complicated narrative with a ferocity that's sure to leave newcomers dazed and confused. The irresistibly engrossing atmosphere is heightened by the exceptional performances from both Nyqvist and Rapace, with the latter's consistently hypnotic work standing as a consistent highlight within the proceedings (and, indeed, the entire series). There's little doubt, however, that the film slows down considerably as it enters its chatty midsection, as Alfredson, working from Ulf Rydberg's screenplay, stresses the furtive maneuverings of the various characters to an almost minute degree - with the less-than-cinematic nature of such stretches ensuring that the movie does test the viewer's patience on a dishearteningly frequent basis. Having said that, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest does pick up substantially as the emphasis shifts to Lisbeth's trial (ie it's just inherently engrossing stuff) - with the electrifying climactic confrontation between Lisbeth and the hulking Niedermann (Micke Spreitz) ensuring that the film (and the series) ends on an appreciatively memorable note.