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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Locked-Room Mystery with a Twist

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In some ways, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is like a classic Agatha Christie whodunit.  A woman vanished; has she been murdered? Has she run away—escaped from a life she no longer wanted to live? But this mystery is 40 years old; the man who wants it solved, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) wants closure on the disappearance of a beloved grandniece. He believes that a close relative is at the bottom of this decades-old puzzle.

The suspects all live together on remote Hedeby Island off the coast of Sweden, lending the mystery a Christie-esqe locked room flavor. And, of course everyone loves a mystery. But there’s more to it than that. Sure, there’s the dysfunctional family, with everyone holding secrets—lies of omission, and not a few lies of commission. There’s the old Nazi living on the hilltop—nothing left in his life but a few photographs and his own hatred to keep him company in his waning days.

These are the classic elements framing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. They make for great drama all on their own.

But what makes the film unique—compelling—are the two individuals in whose hands the unraveling the lie: Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Each of them is damaged, in dire need of redemption—of validation. Investigative journalist Blomkvist, publisher of the influential Millennium Magazine has just been discredited, his reputation in ruins, found guilty of libel after running a story on a corrupt Swedish corporate giant. Drawn into the Vanger family and the mystery of the missing Harriet by the promise of vital information that will clear his name and redeem his reputation. He has little to lose, that is, if he can survive his time on the snow-covered, remote island—and the Vanger family.

Lisbeth, the girl with the dragon tattoo, is as her boss says, “unique.” To say the least. Her demons run deeper, and are more corrosively harrowing than Mikael’s—again, to say the least. Her state-appointed guardian says she is certifiable—insane. And Lisbeth herself would agree; however, whatever her emotional state, she is also certifiably brilliant. A computer hacker with a photographic memory, she’s a Goth girl with a computer nerd’s genius for the virtual world. Lisbeth Salander is also one of the most original heroines to come off the page and onto the celluloid of film.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a compelling package: classic mystery, well-drawn, and unique characters, a cold, remote setting that lends the entire film a chilled backdrop to match the icicle temperament of the Vanger family. A great movie experience.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will be released on Blu-ray and DVD March 20, and is now available for pre-order.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.