Every so often, you get the gift of watching an under-the-radar actor bloom into a critical-mass phenomenon before your bloodshot eyes: Franka Potente in Run Lola Run, or Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. Add Noomi Rapace to the list; what she does with the title character of this Swedish thriller-cum-pop-lit-adaptation will spawn cults of swooning Rapacephiles stat. Of course, the heroine of Stieg Larsson’s Scandi-noir best-seller—the first volume of his megapopular “Millennium” trilogy—was hardwired for instant iconic status, but let’s not damn with faint praise. After watching this wispy young woman dig her talons into the goth-garbed, bisexual biker-chick hacker Lisbeth Salander, you’ll have witnessed a star being brn.
Lisbeth is just a piece of director Niels Arden Oplev’s deep, degenerate puzzle, even if she eclipses everything around her. A disgraced journalist (Nyqvist) is hired to investigate a decades-old mystery; photographs contain clues, biblical passages are codes, and the scribe and his pierced, pixie-ish sidekick race around trying to find out whodunit. Oplev himself speeds through the story’s plot twists like he’s on deadline, but importantly, the filmmaker nails the book’s indictment of the sexual-predatory vibes seemingly embedded in Sweden’s landscape. Vengeance, however, will be Lisbeth’s; just give this abused hellion a tattoo gun, a camcorder and an actor who can bring her to screaming, sucker-punching life. Mission accomplished.—David Fear
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