Since there are few (if any) quality foreign releases this year, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo should be on the top of the list. I have yet to see any suspense/thriller off Hollywood’s assembly line as layered as this one. It’s almost as if the ghost of Raymond Chandler was summoned from his grave to take one final stab at his beloved detective genre.

Too bad the film is in Swedish. Those who have a low tolerance for subtitles will surely be missing out.

The film is based off the award-winning crime novel of the same name by the Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson, and like any great film, there’s an interesting backstory behind it. Shortly before the book’s publication in 2004, the first in the author’s “Millennium Trilogy,” Larsson died of a massive heart attack at the age of 50, much to the suspicion of his friends and family.

An influential journalist in his own right, Larsson’s fiction dealt primarily with Sweden’s criminal underworld and set out to expose the country’s racist organizations. Larson endured countless death threats during his later years, and rumors continue to circle that his unexpected death was indeed murder. He left three unpublished novels at the time of his death, which would go on to sell millions of copies and earn Larsson the distinctive title of becoming the world’s second best-selling author, behind Afghanistan’s Khaled Hosseini.

When all is said and done, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is more or less an old-fashioned detective story. The film follows Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist who is hired by a wealthy CEO to solve the disappearance of his great niece.

To assist him with the investigation, Blomkvist hires a brilliant computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth has been misunderstood by authority her entire life, and although she is somewhat of a social outcast (Her entire wardrobe consists of black.), she proves to be a worthy addition. Together, Blomkvist and Salander endure a series of twists and turns that reveal the dark side of Swedish society.

Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist is brilliantly cast as Blomkvist, but it was Noomi Rapace and her performance as the punkish waif Lisbeth that I was particularly taken with. She takes to the role with comfort and ease, and her transformation from a victimized cynic to rebellious crusader is effortless. Someone please give this woman an award!

Grade: A

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo releases in select theaters March 19.