With Stieg Larsson’s books flying off the shelves and director’s such as David Fincher rumoured to be interested in directing the Hollywood version, the first film version, made and set in the book’s locale of Sweden is an excellent movie.
I have not read the book, so in this case I could only view the movie as just that, a movie. My instinctive was that the movie was formulaic. That is to say that it followed a very well worn and familiar path that detective stories follow (stories because this can also encompass detective literature). That’s not to denigrate the movie at all; the film is an absorbing detective story that has enough about it to engross you for the full 2 and a half hours. Which is where, I think, we do start to notice differences between detective stories.
Detective stories have a lot of exposition to get through as more often than not, the information gathered about all of the protagonists helps lead to the culprit. The key to that in film is to handle the exposition in such a way that the audience does not realise that they are purely being fed information.
Varying the locations and the characters that provide the exposition helps enormously; particularly if you have a strange character in a strange location providing the details. In TGWTDT, the characters do have depth and the locations are generally good, but this gimmick is not relied on too heavily. Nor is the tried and tested “if you think the pace is flagging, have someone burst through the door with a gun” used at all.
Instead, I felt that the film held my attention by appealing to the puzzle solver in me. The detectives, in this case a disgraced journalist and a professional hacker, are meticulous and methodical in their approach. They uncover clues and patterns throughout their investigation, all of which got me thinking along the same lines and, occasionally, coming to the same conclusions at the same time.
So another key area for success with a detective story is to keep the audience engaged, but not to let them get further ahead with their own investigations until it is time to crank up the tension because we now know what is about to befall our heroes.
TGWTDT provides all of these. It is low on action, but when action is called for it delivers with short sudden bursts that jolt the viewer. It also carries with it a level of brutality that provides shocks in place of action sequences. If you want something that doesn’t jolt you out of your comfort zone (watching a detective unravel the mystery without engaging your own brain), then avoid this.
If you want an engaging and involving detective story experience then go see this movie.
I have intentionally avoided referencing the story, as I think this movie is probably best viewed with no preconceptions. Having said that, my girlfriend had read the book and felt that the film, although abbreviated the book, did include most of what was required and was still thoroughly enjoyable.
My rating: 4/5