Mikael Blomkvist is a disgraced journalist who is about to enter prison for libel. Henrik Vanger is the wealthy patriarch of the highly dysfunctional Vanger family. Vanger approaches Blomkvist to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance of his favourite niece, Harriet. Vanger suspects that someone in his family is responsible. Blomkvist has six months to complete the task before he is scheduled to go to prison.
Lisbeth Salander is a computer hacker and all-round 'bad girl' (she's on parole). She resembles a punk, what with nose rings and eyebrow piercings, and a spectacular tattoo on her back. As an employee of a security firm, she investigates Blomkvist and stumbles across the same Vanger investigation that he's on. Together, they uncover the dark secrets of the Vanger family and end up pursuing a serial killer whose trail of destruction is unimaginable in scope.
Lisbeth also has to deal with a legal guardian who abuses her and rapes her. And she has a dark and shameful past that has made her into the violent and disturbed personality that she is.
At 2 hours 30 minutes, the film does not feel overly long, thanks to excellent pacing and direction. Combined with stunning performances and a fantastic script, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has to be one of the year's very best movies. If you miss this one, shame on you.