You’d have to have been living under a fairly gigantic boulder for the last ten years to have never come into contact with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, especially the iconic Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. Following the exploits of disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist and brilliant but tortured hacker Lisbeth Salander, the books were a phenomenon- at last count they’d sold over 80 million copies worldwide.
The film adaptation could have been a disaster but instead it is a triumph. Released both in the cinema as three separate films and on Swedish TV as an extended, re-cut miniseries, Millennium is a dark, brilliant and oftentimes terrifying thriller. There are a million reasons you should check it out - but here are my top seven:
1. Lisbeth Salander is a tattoo'd, pierced whirlwind...
There’s one reason the books are so beloved: Lisbeth Salander. Against a backdrop of conventional lady detectives and crime solvers, Lisbeth was revolutionary: a fierce, reedy, chain-smoking Goth of a computer hacker with a dozen tattoos, a hundred piercings and a photographic memory. And maybe Asperger’s. Oh, yeah, and also with a personal history so littered with neglect and abuse she shouldn’t have made it out alive. But she did. Which is why she’s so damn awesome.
2. ... and it's thanks to Noomi Rapace
Because you can’t praise the character without giving props to the incredible actress who brings her so vividly and sensitively to life. Apparently Noomi prepared for seven months to play Lisbeth by dieting, learning kickboxing and getting various body parts pierced. Well, whatever kind of Daniel Day-Lewis stuff she did, it worked. Previously unknown outside of her native Sweden, this series announced her in a major way and she’s been unstoppable ever since.
3. It shows you exactly the right way to do violence on film
Millennium is not an easy watch. It’s graphic, unflinching and brutal in its depiction of violence, especially towards women. But all this violence never feels unnecessary - it’s always relevant to the plot and never feels exploitative. What’s more, every act of cruelty gets its counteract of vengeance. The bastards get their comeuppance, which is always satisfying.
4. Mikael Blomkvist
For all the talk about how great Lisbeth is, credit also has to go to Blomkvist. Like real life feminism, it can’t exist without the support of men and Blomkvist is a generous co-lead. He’s strong without being macho, wise without being cocky and supportive without being condescending. The chemistry between the two characters is one of the best things about the series. There’s real love and deep trust there.
5. A+ production values
The whole series was initially intended as three feature films and it shows. The cinematography is beautiful, so much so that you’ll never want to go to Sweden in winter because the show is so vivid you feel like you already went and it was so cold and dark and bleak that you never need to do that again.
6. Supporting characters who look like real people
It’s really great when you watch people who weren’t cast purely because a bunch of executives wanted the producers to put pretty faces on the tellybox. European television (and film) has always championed people who look like they really exist in the world, not just in Hollywood and Millennium is no exception.
I mean, look at these people:
7. It’s a total celebration of feminism
Lisbeth Salander is the girl with the dragon tattoo who also played with fire and then kicked a hornets’ nest and inspired a generation of women not to take any more shit and to live their own damn lives by their own damn rules and basically just annihilate any misogynistic bastard unlucky enough to cross their path. The End.
Are you ready? Watch the entire Millennium series- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest - online on SBS On Demand.