Sunday, April 3, 2011

DVD Roundup: The Millennium Trilogy (aka The Girl who...)

** If you haven't seen the first movie or read any of the books, this will have some spoilers.  However, the shock value of some of the surprises isn't worth it, so read on.**

The first half is a repost of my reviews of the first two movies, with an addition now that I've finished the Trilogy

I feel like I've discussed this series a lot with quite a few different movie geeks, and I haven't actually written a review of anything.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire are the first two films based on books in The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larrson.  The third Swedish film was just released in theaters here in the States (though I'll have to wait until Netflix gets it).  The first two movies are intense drama/thrillers with many murders and violence thrown in.  They're definitely some of the best story-telling to have come out recently.  
Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander, a petite bad ass computer hacker who had an epically terrible childhood.  She's required to check in with a "Guardian" (kind of like a probation officer here in the States), and when her former Guardian has a stroke, she's stuck with a terrible guy who does unspeakable things to her (one of the most violent scenes on screen I've ever seen).  She does get her revenge, thankfully.  But you can't unring a bell.  So that's the understory.  The overarching story involves Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has been found guilty of libeling a megamogul.  Since he's heading for jail, he gets hired by a wealthy guy, Martin Vanger, to investigate a family mystery - the disappearance of his niece.  Salander and Blomkvist cross paths after she investigates him for Vanger before he hires him.  
Salander hacks into Blomkvist's computer and watches as he tries to find the niece.  Eventually, she has to join him to try to find the truth.  Again, they find some unbearably disgusting facts from decades ago and the whole mystery does get solved, but man is it way out in left field.  At the end, Salander does her computer genius thing to prove that the megamogul actually did the things Blomkvist said he did, clearing him.  She steals a ton of the guy's money -secretly of course.  And this leads us to the next film.  Brilliant first entry - amazing acting by Rapace, and terrific thriller action sequences.  Once I got around the extremely violent scene, it's a wonderful movie all around.  5 of 5 stars/lambs

Blomkvist coming to the rescue, but Salander has it in hand
In The Girl Who Played with Fire Blomkvist is back at his magazine and a fellow journalist and his assistant are killed.  Also dead is Salander's "Guardian".  She is accused of the crime, but since she has tons of money now, she moved and can't be found.  Blomkvist, who has a soft spot for Salander, knows she didn't do it and goes about trying to figure out who might have.  He stumbles upon a den of human trafficking, prostitution and murders going back a long time, with links to Salander's terrible childhood.  Not nearly as thrilling as the original, but still a brilliant story told with great acting and an interesting plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Less violent, but more mystery and a few gory scenes that almost make you want to look away.  Less edgy, but an excellent return to terrific characters.  4 of 5 lambs/stars

And finally, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - finally available on Netflix streaming.  This film picks up almost exactly where the previous one left off - Salander is in the hospital after the brutal attack by her half-brother and father.  Oh, and her dad is in the hospital too and Lisbeth is charged with trying to kill him. The movie follows Salander trying to figure out how to defend herself and prove she's not crazy and must not be committed again.  The psychiatrist who originally locked her up and molested her has shown up for the prosecution.  And Blomkvist and his colleagues at the magazine Millenium have decided to expose all of Salander's story and its bad guys - from her father all the way up to the government conspiracy that sent her to the mental institution and want to keep her there.  Thankfully, Blomkvist is still willing to risk his life (and his friends) to save Lisbeth - and his interest is somehow still not creepy.  

I think I liked this movie the best of the trilogy.  The violence was much more toned down - if nailing someone's feet to the floor so they can't chase you can be considered toned down.   Now that we finally know all of the details of Lisbeth's story, she becomes an even more remarkable character, and watching her soften just a bit to related to Blomkvist as a friend and his sister as he attorney, her bad-ass-ness is amazing.  The complexity of the story builds really well on both the first and second movies in the trilogy, and really should be viewed as a group - at least as much as the Star Wars films.  If you gave the first one a shot, definitely finish the series - it's absolutely worth it.  5 of 5 stars/lambs.


Buttercup said...

I've only seen the movie of the third book and liked it. I'm not sure I could have followed the very convoluted plot if I hadn't read all three of the books, but would like to catch up on the other two movies.

Anonymous said...

I saw these when they came out here in Finland a year ago and enjoyed them a lot, I'm happy the Nordic cinema is getting more attention through them. The thing is though that even though they are great films, the context of Swedish crime films and tv series that I'm watching them from gives these films less of a shine. As seperate from that movie/tv series scene they are great, but in context they are just good in a sequence of similar crime tv films like Wallander and Beck.

But absolutely I agree that they make a very coherently good story, and should be viewed in sequence to bring out the best in them. Individually I think the first film is the most effective.

Jess said...

5piltreel - I really liked the "foreign" nature of these flicks. I'm not sure the remake in English will hold up - perhaps if they still film in Sweden, but I doubt it.

Buttercup, I bet you'd really like these as a whole trilogy.

simoncolumb said...

You liked the third one! Thats mental - its so-o-o-o boring! All the pace from the first one was eroded awat in the second one and, by the third, its completely gone.

Fletch said...

LOL at Simon. Jess, your take is definitely somewhat unique - most (including myself) think the series went downhill as it went on. I still got some enjoyment out of the latter two, but I'm not sure if I would have had I not read the books.

Still, looking forward to at least checking out the first of Fincher's version(s) (assuming he's in for all three, which is doubtful).