I haven't read the phenomenally popular books which prompted this film and its sequels so I've no sense of their faithfulness to the original material, but the movie version is a classic example of attempting to have it both ways, ripping open the seamy underbelly of Swedish life and condemning the misogyny that lurks in these chilly landscapes while also showing us, in often stomach-churning detail, what bad men do to women.
There's certainly no instinct to tell rather than show on the part of director Niels Arden Oplev, which is a shame because the parts of his film that deal in microfilmed chases are often more compelling than those that reveal artfully created depictions of death, while he also benefits from two excellent lead actors, most obviously Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander, a brittle, punky cyber-detective.
Despite the references to broader political machinations, the intrigue is essentially a closed mystery, with a limited cast of characters and a Poirot/Marple duo to unmask the criminal mastermind. Almost inevitably, the film reveals a long-gestating series of crimes and while there's some satisfaction in seeing the tentacles of justice emerge, I wouldn't have minded if the explanation had turned out to be as mundane and yet inexplicable as the film initially suggests, more Homicide: Life on the Streets than P.D. James; what, after all, is more terrifying than the idea of a truly random, unpremeditated attack that emerges from nothing and disappears again?