Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nykvist) has been successfully sued for libel after writing a story about billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström and he must spend 3 months in prison.
Upon leaving court he is greeted by Dirch Frode (Ingvar Hirdwall) who offers him a job working for Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), the former CEO of Vanger Enterprises. The job is simple - solve the 40 year old case of Vanger's daughter Harriet's disappearance and he will be paid handsomely.
As he begins his assignment he is aided by the mysterious Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a genius computer hacker who is revealed to have done the background work on Blomkvist for Vanger in the first place.
With the film, however, readers of the book will be disappointed. Highly prominent characters fade into obscurity (Erika Berger) or are not even mentioned at all (Gunnar Nilsson). Along with this, plot lines are often changed (there is no mention of the fire flashback in the book - that is saved for the sequels).
On the other hand, this does not make it a bad film. Fitting the book's storyline into a two and a half hour film would have been a remarkable achievement so inevitably parts of the plot had to be axed or revised. But, having a brilliant story behind it is only the foundations for making this film so well marketed throughout the world. Not bad for Swedish cinema.
Lisbeth Salander is perhaps one of the most original characters in fictional history. She takes the adult factors that are common in European writing and mixes them with an undercurrent of vulnerability which makes two sides of a character that are difficult to portray simultaneously. Noomi Rapace absolutely nails it which is an achievement in itself especially because she is covered in layer upon layer of slap. She also manages to make you feel empathetic for a clearly unamiable person. With her ability to speak English as well, it is no wonder than she has rightly been taken on in British and American cinema (Prometheus and the Sherlock Holmes sequel are two prominent examples).
For me, the biggest compliment to the film is that my parents sat down to watch it as well, considering how badly received foreign film usually is in my household. My father's comment at the end was that the film appeared to be lacking development of the Salander character and left a few boxes unticked (for example, why show the fire flashbacks as they are irrelevant). I would agree with him on this point, and it is probably the only disappointment that the film lends itself so heavily to the sequel. The first book worked perfectly as a standalone.
Unfortunately the sequel issue is an irk for me as it doesn't make the film as accessible for those who don't fancy spending over 7 hours in front of the screen for all three films. That's not to say you shouldn't though, as the series is excellent, but if you watch the first don't expect to be fully satisfied until you've seen the last.