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Prometheus (2012)

June 8, 2012 1 comment

The first step in this review must address the elephant in the room. Prometheus (2012) is intended as one of this year’s major blockbusters, but it’s not a prequel to Alien (1979). It’s a separate science fiction film set in the same fictional universe some thirty years before before the events we see in Alien. Indeed, if my memory is not wholly at fault, the planet we see in this film is not the same planet visited by the Nostromo. Ridley Scott has done well with Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof to avoid this being a simple origin film. The opening scenes set on Earth reveal the central theme. In essence, it proposes that to create life, one must first destroy life. The science of a race that can construct a craft capable of flying between the stars can easily plant seeds in the oceans of Earth without having to kill one of the crew (assuming, of course, that the being we see die is actually one of the crew rather than a being specially constructed for the purpose — it appears to be a different kind of spaceship from the craft we saw in Alien and later see in this film. The intention of showing us this death is to reinforce the centrality of mortality. In all nature, there’s a cycle of life as the newly born first grow under the care of their parents, then take the first steps to an independent existence. This will usually involve mating and producing the next generation. At some point, the original parents die and, through this death, the children positively achieve independence. There’s no-one with the right or power to tell them what to do. While they have the health and strength, they guide their own young until death passes on the mantle of leadership to the next generation. So, in a way, the theme is almost oedipal in asserting the death of at least one parent is necessary for the next generation to accept responsibility for its own future.

Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender before the problems become apparent

 

In human terms, any child of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) would be waiting for him to die so that ownership and control of the corporation could pass. Similarly, David (Michael Fassbender), a robot created by Peter Weyland, would not have any wishes or desires of its own unless its creator dies or otherwise stops giving it mandatory instructions. Perhaps, at a metaphorical level, that’s why Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) has to die immediately after Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) discovers she’s apparently pregnant. If we scale this up to the human race, we may not truly be able to achieve independence and realise whatever represents our true potential unless our “creators” are dead.

 

At this point, we need to refer back to the title of the film because, self-evidently, Prometheus doesn’t seem to fit into this theme. Except, of course, it does. In the myth, Prometheus steals a vital piece of knowledge from the Gods. It’s the difference in the level of knowledge and understanding that gives Gods their power and demonstrates their superiority over humanity. For this theft, he’s punished. So the question you have to ask is what motive underpins this expedition. In an altruistic world, the intention would probably be pure scientific research. They are going simply to see what’s there. Elizabeth Shaw herself has a more religious view of the quest for knowledge. Yes, she’s a scientist, but she also believes in the right of the children to meet, if not confront, their Creator. She believes we will be proved worthy by accepting our Creator’s invitation to visit. Peter Weyland, the man funding the expedition, will have a different agenda. For him, there’s only one thing it would be worth stealing from the gods. Indeed, he would pay any amount of money and endure any hardship to make his dream real. That it would disturb the balance of nature is not something that will deflect his ambition. Not for him the desire to bring back technology for the benefit of humanity. He’s rather more selfish. Perhaps, like the original Prometheus, he deserves to be punished.

Charlize Theron struggling to assert her authority

 

So let’s put a little flesh on the bones. Captain Janek (Idris Elba) is the quiet man of steady purpose. He sees it as his job to get everyone safely home subject to the wishes of Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) who’s the representative of the Weyland Corporation and nominally in charge of the expedition. There’s steady friction between Meredith and David because the robot is working through the programming given by Peter Weyland before leaving Earth. When there’s conflict, David shuts her out of the loop. As in the original Alien, the robot is the pivotal catalyst by independently investigating what the crew finds after landing, i.e. before it can engage in the theft required by Peter Weyland, it must first find the relevant technology. This means active exploration and experimentation. There’s a further difference. In the original Alien series, the hero is clearly Sigourney Weaver’s character because she will stop at nothing to protect the Earth from infection. The true measure of the heroism is her willingness to sacrifice her life. Our new hero played by Noomi Rapace must survive. Yes, this is the first in what’s intended as a new series to fill out the general background detail to this fictional universe. That means she cannot have quite the same qualities of heroism as Sigourney Weaver. She obviously knows what has to be done and can tell others what to do, but there must be at least one other hero in the right mould and prepared to act.

Idris Elba keeping a watchful eye on events as they occur

 

So does Prometheus work? The answer is a measured yes, although there’s one feature which is absurd. No matter how good the local anaesthetics of the time, no human body could possibly come through that surgical procedure and then run around normally for the remainder of the film. In justification, all we can say is that it’s necessary for the final sequence to work out. As another aside, the body at the end is left in the wrong place. This may confirm my recollection that this is a different planet and, therefore, the crew of the Nostromo finds a different ship with another alien in the command chair. But putting the problems to one side, the general flow of the narrative is compulsively strong. It takes its time to explain what’s happening and for the crew to exchange ideas. The creatures slowly returning to life in their underground storage facility are sufficiently different to create a whole new sense of excitement except one result of human interaction is the ultimately hack cliché and so a waste of a crew member who could have been disposed of in a more creative way.

The good ship Prometheus on the ground

 

Ridley Scott uses the big screen well to create a sense of wonder as the Prometheus enters the planet’s atmosphere and explores. He also manages the ensemble cast well with everyone turning in quality performances. While many of the cast are cannon fodder, it’s good to see the director taking time with accents and attitudes to distinguish the individuals from the crowd. Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender are excellent with Charlize Theron and Idris Elba allowed a reasonable amount of screen time to establish themselves. Logan Marshall-Green is a bit pallid and Guy Pearce submerged under prosthetics which reduces the opportunity to act. The only thing that stops this from being a great film is the lack of reaction to events. When the crew is in danger or circumstances require painful decisions, you don’t see the crew taking a moment to express relief they survived or telling themselves the decisions were necessary, if not actually right. Stuff happens and then more stuff happens. This leaves the level of characterisation at a rather primitive level. That said, I enjoyed Prometheus and sincerely hope at least one more film can be made to develop the theme.

 

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

December 23, 2011 2 comments

The question, I suppose, is what we should expect to see when the title of the film mentions Sherlock Holmes. At the first available opportunity, should Sherlock say, “Elementary, my dear Watson” (a phrase never actually used by Conan Doyle), should he display his deductive reasoning while playing the violin, smoking the tobacco from his Persian slipper or mainlining seven-percent solution, or should he wear a deerstalker and an Inverness cape? There are many possible stereotypes that could be adopted. . .

Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law anticipating another attempt to kill them

Well, defying convention at every possible turn, here comes Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, an action-packed adventure directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law in their second outing as the dynamic duo. To add a little European sparkle for the box-office ratings, there’s a moderate role for Noomi Rapace, this time wearing rather more clothing than as Lisbeth Salander, with Jared Harris playing Professor Moriarty, Rachel McAdams returning in a cameo as Irene Adler and Stephen Fry as Mycroft (sometimes not wearing as many clothes as he should). It’s a good cast with many other familiar faces popping up in the support roles. Even the landscaping looks good again. In the first Ritchie attempt at Holmes, London was also a “star” with loving attention given to the city as a living, breathing place. This time, although we start in London, Paris also gets a good showing off with a nice castle on top of the Reichenbach Falls.

So how does this film stack up against all the other Holmes offerings? The news is mostly good. Although it’s less obvious as we watch it through, there’s actually some quite clever deductive reasoning going on. Why is it less obvious? Because Ritchie’s camera glosses over some scenes very quickly. In other “detective” films, the camera lingers and allows us, the audience, a chance to spot the clues. Sadly, it’s only when we get a slow-motion reprise of those scenes that we are allowed the chance to see what Holmes saw with his triumphant voice-over explaining the significance of it all. Ah, the slow-motion sequences. . . This is hopelessly overused. I was mildly intrigued the first time we saw predictive movements played out in real time. It was an interesting idea to see how his planning either did or did not work. The final confrontation with Moriarty is also faintly amusing as they both play the same mental game of predicting attack and defence. But the continued use of the technique becomes annoying. If he does make a third (with about $65 million in box-office takings worldwide over the first weekend, the chances of a third look quite strong), I hope he finds some new toy to play with. Anyway, back with the reasoning, Watson and the Swedish gypsy get their own apply-the-Sherlock-method moment and that proves rather effective.

Moriarty (Jarred Harris) as a real Victorian gentleman and supervillain

I confess to liking Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson. Although they are given some incredibly silly things to do — Holmes pretending to be furniture must rank as one of the silliest of all time — they manage to keep their dignity and, more importantly, they make a good team. This Watson is genuinely a warrior and, although he loses his limp rather rapidly when running for his life, he’s a crack shot and very steady under pressure. This is just the man you would want by your side if the game was afoot. There are moments of real respect and affection between them with Holmes trusting the man on two vital occasions. They also manage to produce humour from the situations in which they are placed. It may not be laugh-out-loud, but it’s entertaining in a gentle way. Yet the real basis for the success of this film is the characterisation of Professor Moriarty. Jared Harris plays him as a very urbane gentleman whose mask only slips a little when Holmes skewers him with an analysis of his handwriting. Later when he and Holmes can enjoy a little quality time together to discuss fishing techniques, we see him as a narcissistic sadist but, at the end, they can find a moment of peace to play chess while the fate of the world is being decided in the ballroom on the other side of the door. There’s a certain solicitousness about the Professor’s care for the injured Holmes when he wraps a cape about his shoulders. They might have been friends in another lifetime.

Noomi Rapace doing her best in an underwritten role as a gypsy

Noomi Rapace is just about given a fair crack of the whip. Although this is a film about the threat of war and so, in these patriarchal Victorian times, very much the province of men, she’s allowed to be more than merely decorative. She runs, jumps, rides and, for her sins, dances her way through England, France, Germany and Switzerland on her way to finding her missing brother. It’s better than the usual female tokenism you see in blockbusters. As in the Conan Doyle originals, Sherlock Holmes survives the Reichenbach Falls and Colonel Moran lives to fight another day if he can find the empty house in time for the possible third film in the series. I note Conan Doyle did accord Moran the honour of being the second most dangerous man in London. It would be good if Jared Harris could be persuaded to return as well. As a concluding thought, this is an interesting week with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows going up against Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. In my opinion, Sherlock beats Ethan. The other linking factor is that these two films give international recognition to Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist who were launched in the Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy. By coincidence, I’m going to see the David Fincher remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo next week.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest or Luftslottet som sprängdes (2009)

October 26, 2010 12 comments

In the written form of story-telling, you can shift the point of point to give a different perspective on the emerging narrative. This is more difficult in the cinema. That’s what makes The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest slightly different to the preceding two in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, but no less engrossing.

Some thirty years ago, a friend of mine did quite a lot of business in Sweden and I always remember him saying, “If you want anything done, you have to form a committee.” I don’t know whether the same decision-making philosophy applies today, but he described Swedish society as being co-operative in spirit with more people admitted to stakeholder roles.

The best way to think about this trilogy is to see it as two separate narrative arcs. The “girl” starts off defending her mother from an abusive father, ends up punished in a mental hospital, and then released on licence into a corrupt Guardianship system. The journalist has had an eventful life investigating the rich and famous, is the joint founder of a high-profile and respected journal, and continues his pursuit of justice.

This makes the trilogy all about pace and scale. In the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the journalist sets off in classical detective story format. From his point of view, we see the investigation develop. This is small-scale and limited by what he can find. Initially, his progress is slow until the girl makes it a team effort. Then the pace picks up as they begin to see beyond the immediate and glimpse the bigger picture. By the end of the film, we have some real insight into the journalist and observe the girl without being given enough information to understand her. This is reflected in the descriptive title to the film. This is “as she is”.

The Girl Who Played With Fire is a title in the past tense. We are immediately referred back to the original defensive act as the context for the current action. This switches the frame of the film from a genre-specific detective format to that of a psychological thriller where we begin to see why the girl has been victimised. This means we step back from the more intimate story between the journalist and the girl, and now see them as players in a bigger game.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is also a title in the past tense and a reference back to the same attack on her father, now given fresh impetus from her new attempt to kill him. The frame for the narrative is completely expanded to include the state. If there’s one basic truth about governments, it’s that one journalist cannot investigate and prosecute high-ranking civil servants or politicians. Only a state has the authority to look at itself and decide whether anything should be done. Although there’s a wonderful mythology surrounding Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s contribution to the downfall of President Nixon, there was a continuing investigation, initially FBI-based, looking for a link between the Watergate break-in and the re-election campaign committee. Our fictional journalist is no better than the real-world equivalents and can do nothing more than hitch his wagon to the Swedish Prime Minister’s task force. He stops being the “hero” in the Hollywood sense of the word, and becomes a cog in the machine. He joins the committee to get things done.

The girl has a different role to play. In a patriarchal society, there are penalties for attacking your father. It matters not whether this is in defence of your mother or yourself, you will be put on trial. Thus, the girl must be seen as the victim both personally, because she has been seriously injured, and legally, because the courts are to be used to lock her away again in “the” mental hospital. That’s why it’s such a pleasing touch when she asserts her individuality by dressing in high style for her court appearances. She will not be intimidated.

As a drama produced by Yellow Bird, this is a flat, ensemble piece with everyone pitching in to get a successful resolution. The other journalists at the Millennium find key information, the journalist’s sister is the girl’s lawyer. Even Plague gets a featuring moment or two in finally hacking the corrupt psychiatrist’s laptop. There are new players on the side of “right” and, of course, it must all be resolved with the girl released from custody.

The moment at the end between the journalist and the girl is touching and hits exactly the right note. In this concluding film, Noomi Rapace is a largely silent presence. It’s a nicely judged performance as she works her way back to health and then endures the trial. Michael Nyqvist continues as the dogged investigator although, as in the first film, he is forced to fight for his life. Yet again, he is saved by a woman. This is as it should be in a film about patriarchalism. A few words must be said about Anders Ahlbom as the venal and perverted psychiatrist and Lena Endre as the brave co-founder of Millennium and the journalist’s lover. In an ensemble film where everyone must work for the good of the team, they produced particularly clever performances. Ahlbom is the epitome of cunning, never overconfident and sufficiently aware to understand when it’s better to say nothing. Endre rises magnificently to the thankless role. She must be intimidated as the co-founder of Millennium and jealous of the girl who seems to be seducing her man away. It could have been the worst kind of hysteria, but it was muted and sensitive.

I have two reservations about the end-product. The first is that, with everyone spying on everyone else, it’s difficult at times to know which side we are seeing. The second is more serious. The Niedermann thread is completely wasted. He should have been caught at the end of the second film. In this episode, his only function is to interrupt the development of the major plot themes, surviving to allow the girl an opportunity to show she is back on form. In reality, all the post-trial excitement does is delay the meeting we want to see with the journalist. A more subtle way to demonstrate her recovery should have been found.

This is a must-see for anyone who enjoyed the first two. It’s genuinely engrossing and produces a highly satisfying resolution to the girl’s narrative arc with a senior agent of the Swedish government giving evidence for her in the trial. There’s no better way for a state to acknowledge its past mistakes. But, if you have not seen the first two, do not go and see this. You will be thoroughly confused.

For reviews of other films and television programs by Yellow Bird:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Headhunters or Hodejegerne (2011)
Wallander: Before the Frost (2012)
Wallander: The Dogs of Riga (2012)
Wallander: An Event in Autumn (2012)
Wallander: Faceless Killers (2010)
Wallander: The Fifth Woman (2010)
Wallander: Firewall (2009)
Wallander: The Man Who Smiled (2010)
Wallander: One Step Behind (2008)
Wallander: Sidetracked (2009)

The Girl Who Played With Fire or Flickan som lekte med elden (2009)

September 21, 2010 1 comment

In a sense, a film needs a plot. There has to be something coherent to put on the screen. It should be entertaining. For those who prefer intelligence, it should offer food for thought. But without characters we can understand, respect and care about, there’s no point to the plot. There are only images on the screen with us indifferent as to the fate of those depicted in them.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was the man’s film. He was the reporter threatened with jail and so available to undertake the investigation. She was playing catch-up. In the end, it was a partnership of equals. Sex was on her terms. They remained friends when she walked away. He was humble enough to be able to accept the fact that she saved his life. She could be with a man and not think of him as an enemy.

The sequel is a film about a woman. There’s a man who believes he is her friend, but he is now the one playing catch-up. The title is interesting and revealing. It names her as The Girl Who Played With Fire or Flickan som lekte med elden. As a twelve-year old, she defended her mother by setting fire to her abusive father. She is all grown up now and the film starts with our heroine returning to Sweden after a year’s meaningless travel abroad, finding reasons to spend her ill-gotten gains. We see snapshots of her living out of suitcases. Later we see inside the apartment she buys in Sweden. It’s mostly empty. The refrigerator is bare. Eating is a functional thing you do to stay alive. She may have acquired wealth, but it has not changed her as a person. Literally and metaphorically, she lives hand-to-mouth. Material possessions are of little interest to her unless they serve a specific purpose. All she needs is a place to sleep, anonymous clothes to wear and the floor to store them on. This expensive flat has windows looking out into the world she must periodically enter. She feels safer inside looking out, but is supremely confident when out. Someone who knows her, thinks of her as invincible. Indeed, that’s how she thinks of herself. Except, of course, someone more invincible can overwhelm her. When this happens, she never gives up. She just carries on as if nothing untoward has happened.

Early on in the film, her employer from the first film complains that she treats those she knows as disposable. People are only there for her convenience, to be spoken to or helped as she feels appropriate. He wonders how someone can be so walled-off from the world. He says this as an outsider and without rancour, accepting her for who she is. There’s no need for him actually to ask how she relates to those whom she might call her friends. Apart from her first legal Guardian and a girl for sex, she has no friends.

Because she is who she is, she finds herself a target. As it’s explained to her, “It’s just business.” But through this involvement, she gets a second chance at revenge for what happened to her mother. In other films, we would no doubt lose sympathy for someone who decides to act out the impulse. Taking both films together, however, the cumulative horror in her life gives us understanding. The simple vulnerability and honesty of her defuses the issue. This is not sensationalised in Hollywood style with vigilantes taking the law into their own hands. This is an abused woman who fights to reclaim who she is as a person. Nevertheless, we should note that she immediately responds with graphic violence to her rape and, at the end of the first film, she takes vicarious revenge, destroying the wealthy tycoon who was able to imprison her man for an alleged defamation. We can therefore see a kind of inspirational righteousness in her. She seeks justice, not only for herself, but also for those she has some feelings for. Towards the end of this film, she takes the unprecedented step of sending her man an e-mail acknowledging him as a friend. The first sign that a woman who has suffered so much abuse at the hands of men may be able to trust one of that breed again.

This is a film in which people who are hit, stay hit. It does not glorify violence. Instead it shows brutality for what it is and what it does to people. Take it as being a part of the film’s integrity. The story blends detection with a more thrillerish approach. This is detection as self-defence, aiming to identify the source of the threat and eliminate it before “it” eliminates the heroine. More importantly, it starts to give us a better view of the extent of the conspiracy that has victimised the girl-now-woman. Although there’s one obvious “bad guy”, he’s not working alone. Swedish society is implicated and it will take a few brave souls to root out the corruption and see justice done.

This film is stunningly good, in many ways rather better than the first. Although, when I think about it, the second draws its strength from the first. If you saw the second as a stand-alone, you would struggle to understand it. Once again, the cast proves sensational. Michael Nyqvist is playing the “hero” in a wonderfully understated way, while Noomi Rapace continues to star as the eponymous “girl”. In every way, she carries the film. Indeed, seeing the structure of this film and how the primary characters relate to each other, makes Hollywood’s decision to remake the Millennium Trilogy even more bizarre. When you cast a sex symbol like Daniel Craig into the leading male role, how can he fail to see, let alone touch, the girl until the last few frames? Although the hero does have sex with the editor of the magazine where he works, I doubt this opportunity to see Craig without his shirt will be enough to satisfy Hollywood and Craig’s fans. I fear there will be major surgery to distort the plot into a star-vehicle. Unfortunately, Stieg Larsson is no longer around to defend the novels he wrote — the trilogy being published posthumously. When so much money is at stake, the needs of bankers outweigh any artistic hopes that might lurk in the consciences of the author’s heirs who sold the rights.

Back in the Swedish film industry where character is everything, events are left nicely poised for the third. Fortunately, the trilogy is playing as a single season so I only have a few weeks to wait to see how it all works out.

For reviews of other films and television programs by Yellow Bird:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest or Luftslottet som sprängdes (2009)
The Girl Who Played With Fire or Flickan som lekte med elden (2009)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Headhunters or Hodejegerne (2011)
Wallander: Before the Frost (2012)
Wallander: The Dogs of Riga (2012)
Wallander: An Event in Autumn (2012)
Wallander: Faceless Killers (2010)
Wallander: The Fifth Woman (2010)
Wallander: Firewall (2009)
Wallander: The Man Who Smiled (2010)
Wallander: One Step Behind (2008)
Wallander: Sidetracked (2009)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)

August 18, 2010 4 comments

Neutrality is a most curious convention in International Law. When all about you are fighting, one country stands aloof and refuses to support any of the “sides”. The curiousness lies not so much in the wish to avoid fighting — the risk of casualties both in the armed forces and the civilian population would deter all rational governments from involvement — but in the willingness of the actual combatants to respect the assertion of neutrality and not allow the theatre of war to stray over the relevant borders. So Sweden managed to remain relatively uninvolved in WWII. There was significant trade, significant volumes of money moved through the banking system, some Swedes fought in the German army. Some even worked as guards in Treblinka. The degree of collaboration is one of those unexplored pieces of history. More modern Swedish governments prefer to remember heroes like Raoul Wallenberg who saved thousands of Hungarian jews by issuing them with Swedish passports, carefully reconstructing history in the schools and media generally to divert attention from the inconvenient truth.

One of the more illuminating lines in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or Män som hatar kvinnor is that everyone has secrets, even countries. Given that the plot surrounds a family whose wealth was undoubtedly enhanced through collaboration with the Nazis, we are immediately pitched into a classic murder mystery from the Golden Age with the political ideology of Aryanism to the fore. Only a limited number of people could have “done it” because, at the relevant time, all the key players were trapped on an island by a serious traffic accident. But there are two elements that lift this from a mundane Agatha Christie plot into a work for modern sensibilities. The first is that it plays with the nature of history and the power of the modern eye to interpret and reinterpret the signs from the past. In this, it’s clearly following in the tradition of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose with its deconstructionist and semiotic undertones. The ability to manipulate images and to excavate the past for even the most trivial of pieces of paper are the keys to all understanding. The second decision of note is to take an unflinching look at misogyny. I cannot remember a film in recent years that exposes all the prejudices and abuses that lie mostly hidden under the surface of most modern societies. Perhaps from a poor understanding of Scandinavia, I had always thought Sweden was a relatively civilised country. Sadly, if this film is in any way representative of reality, it seems just as venal and corrupt as the rest of the world when it comes to the treatment of women.

In this, the pivotal character is the eponymous girl, played with outstanding suppressed violence, by Noomi Rapace. It’s an intensely demanding role and, in the wrong hands, it would have completely changed the character of the film, probably condemning it to the direct-to-video route to oblivion. As it is, her performance is one of the most memorable I can recall in the last decade. She has been abused at every point during her life, yet she manages to retain integrity and a brutal kind of honesty. In the end, she gives as good as she gets. Playing her foil is Michael Nyqvist as a journalist paid to investigate the disappearance and presumed murder of a girl some forty years ago. Nyqvist is passive and understated but, because of his honesty and empathy, he is able to bridge the gap with Rapace’s character. Apart they are interesting. Together they become an unstoppable force for truth. Unlike Sweden itself which played a game of neutrality during WWI, this film takes no prisoners when it comes to confronting the abuse of women in Swedish society.

Almost without exception, every character is beautifully played from the obsessed industrialist who pays the journalist to find the murderer, to Peter Andersson’s extraordinarily corrupt Guardian responsible managing the dragon girl’s money while she is out of mental hospital on licence, to Björn Granath as the determined local police officer. Perhaps it’s because I’m not familiar with the current stars of Swedish film and television, but the entire cast of “unknowns” emerge as fresh and talented. One further cast member must be mentioned. The scenery of the island and key locations are stunningly beautiful, if somewhat bleak, a factor that plays against the emerging horror of the investigation and surrounding events.

I am disturbed by stories that the film is to be reshot for American audiences. Apparently, Daniel Craig is lined up to play the journalist. Frankly, I think this is a supreme insult to the director and cast of the Swedish original produced by Yellow Bird. I cannot conceive of any sanitised script with a cast of stars coming remotely close to being as good. Having James Bond in the remake is ludicrous casting against type and can only be explained by Hollywood’s lack of faith in the quality of the story. You can just imagine the producers in a smoke-filled room, “We need a star to carry this movie — unknowns would condemn our remake to the arthouse circuit.” In truth, the only reasons for this offensive decision are the extreme parochialism of America that, for the most part, is hostile to any culture other than what it claims as its own. And the inability of the audience to read the subtitles. Let’s face it, the desperation of US distributors cannot be better illustrated than by the rerecording of the voice tracks for Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful animations. There has been no worse butchery in recent years than cutting out the sensitive vocal performances of the Japanese casts in favour of Hollywood stars. I shall be watching the other two Swedish films in this Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. I will not be queuing to watch the Hollywood remakes.

For reviews of other films and television programs by Yellow Bird:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest or Luftslottet som sprängdes (2009)
The Girl Who Played With Fire or Flickan som lekte med elden (2009)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Headhunters or Hodejegerne (2011)
Wallander: Before the Frost (2012)
Wallander: The Dogs of Riga (2012)
Wallander: An Event in Autumn (2012)
Wallander: Faceless Killers (2010)
Wallander: The Fifth Woman (2010)
Wallander: Firewall (2009)
Wallander: The Man Who Smiled (2010)
Wallander: One Step Behind (2008)
Wallander: Sidetracked (2009)

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