The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (18)

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The Independent Culture

This overlong but absorbing murder mystery, adapted from the first of a best-selling trilogy by the late journalist-turned-crime writer Stieg Larsson, dabbles in some pretty dark material.

Campaigning journo Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), facing a prison sentence for libel, is hired by an elderly industrialist to re-open a cold case, the disappearance of his teenage niece back in 1966. Unbeknown to Blomkvist, a young woman named Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has hacked into his computer and spotted a vital solution to the most puzzling element of the case. Their unlikely partnership uncovers a lurid trail, haunted by Swedish Nazism, ritual murder and a family riven with suspicion and hatred. You can see why its original Swedish title was Man Som Hatar Kvinnor ("Men Who Hate Women") – and also why it would be changed for the international market. The past atrocities of a misogynist killer are echoed in the present abuses of Lisbeth's apparently respectable guardian, though the latter's comeuppance arrives in a more timely fashion. The intricacy of familial and forensic detail – clues are intriguingly scattered through newspaper archives and forgotten photo-negatives – bulks out the length, and an unvital coda pushes it to a possibly fidgety two-and-a-half hours. But the direction is mostly tight, and the crime-busting combination of unassuming middle-aged geezer and taciturn goth heroine (who's as useful with a nine-iron as she is with a computer) will have an across-the-board appeal.