This memorable Swedish detective movie, based on the international best-selling novel by Stieg Larsson, updates the detective-mystery tradition for our Digital Age, yet preserves much of the best atmospherics, devices and motifs of that long tradition, dramatizing a discovery of evil that is both timeless and focused on the past six decades, those decades in turn rooted in the horrific totalitarian onslaughts of the 1930s and 1940s, themselves echoing the darkness of most of history. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is an irresistible rediscovery of endemic evil through one of its most awful historical manifestations, a grim quest indeed; and in particular is a dark drama of the inhumanity of men toward women and of its origins, circumstances, addictiveness, and willfulness–conduct revealing a disguised and lurking primal human evil.
In the best of the detective tradition birthed from the knightly quest tradition, the sense of an eerie, deadly sleuthing is the essential and engrossing experience of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The atmospherics are marvelous, the quest compelling.
Most importantly, the detective work is accomplished largely through modern information technology. There are two heroes, a male investigative journalist and a female investigative computer hacker, and, working together, their recovery of the past by which they determine the killer and, hiding in that diabolical one, the clashing histories in all of us, is by far the best cyber-detective drama I’ve yet come across. One of the heroes–that very girl with the dragon tattoo–is what the seeming plague of unrealistic geek detective types in today’s crime dramas really ought to be like: she makes sense as a new sleuth suitable for these days.
Anyone who has attempted to piece together a truth by means of enhancing and manipulating images and other apparently unconnected historical snippets of various media–has, in essence, used modern information technology for collection, processing and analysis to aid mysterious and driven human cognitive curiosity to recover truth, remote to recent–will, I am sure, be caught up in this drama set, as it were, on a moonless night.