‘Girl With Dragon Tattoo’ is a thrilling ride

Some people nev­er watch for­eign films, no mat­ter how good they may be. An Eng­lish-lan­guage ad­apt­a­tion can open a movie to a wider audi­ence, which is pre­cisely the case with The Girl With the Dragon Tat­too.

Usu­ally I’m not a fan of re­makes, but, sur­pris­ingly, I prefer the Amer­ic­an ver­sion over the ori­gin­al Swedish film, which ac­tu­ally was an ad­apt­a­tion of the first book in Stieg Larsson’s hugely suc­cess­ful Mil­len­ni­um series.

Dav­id Finch­er is one of the bet­ter work­ing dir­ect­ors today — if his name is on a movie you can al­most be sure it’s one to watch (see Fight Club, The Curi­ous Case of Ben­jamin But­ton, The So­cial Net­work). His re­vamped Dragon Tat­too doesn’t dis­ap­point, stick­ing closer to the book than the Swedish film and enorm­ously ramp­ing up the en­ter­tain­ment value. Let’s be hon­est, the Swedish ver­sion is low-budget and is (great act­ing aside) more like a made-for-TV movie. Finch­er’s ver­sion feels made for the big screen.

With its graph­ic nud­ity and vi­ol­ence, Dragon Tat­too is cer­tainly one of the more adult flicks of the year. There is one par­tic­u­larly dis­turb­ing rape scene (even if you know it is com­ing) that is very dif­fi­cult to watch.

The story is told from the per­spect­ive of Mi­kael Blomk­v­ist (Daniel Craig), a journ­al­ist re­cently con­victed of li­bel, who has been hired to write the mem­oirs of an ec­cent­ric old man Hen­rik Vangar (Chris­toph­er Plum­mer). At least, that’s what every­one is sup­posed to think. 

However, there’s a bit more to the job. Blomk­v­ist also has been asked to find out what really happened to Hen­rik’s niece Har­riet, who dis­ap­peared some 40 years ago as a teen­ager. He’s cer­tain she’s been murdered (and it was com­mit­ted by someone in his crazy fam­ily), but he wants to know the true story once and for all.

The most in­ter­est­ing part of the tale is about the girl (yes, with the dragon tat­too) that Blomk­v­ist hires as his re­search­er. Lisa­beth Salander (Rooney Mara) is feisty, fierce and doesn’t take any crap. Oh, and her ex­pert hack­ing skills are just what Blomk­v­ist needs to help him find “a killer of wo­men,” as he pitches it to her.

As usu­al in a murder mys­tery, there are plenty of twists, turns and some red her­rings along the way. Not­able sup­port­ing roles in­clude Stel­lan Skarsgard, who plays Har­riet’s broth­er Mar­tin Vanger, and Joely Richard­son as An­ita, Har­riet’s cous­in. Yorick van Wa­gen­in­gen does an awe­some job of be­ing com­pletely despic­able as Bjur­man, Lisa­beth’s court-ap­poin­ted guard­i­an (Lisa­beth is an adult but is forced to have a guard­i­an man­age her fin­ances be­cause of “men­tal is­sues”). 

The ori­gin­al Lisa­beth (Noomi Ra­pace, who can be seen in the new Sher­lock Holmes film) did a great job in the Swedish movie, so the act­ress who stepped in def­in­itely had huge shoes to fill. Rooney Mara is a fant­ast­ic Lisa­beth. Aside from see­ing her in a small role in The So­cial Net­work, I wasn’t too fa­mil­i­ar with Mara, but she really dives in­to the role — even down to her char­ac­ter’s nipple pier­cing (ouch!). Mara’s Swedish ac­cent also soun­ded au­then­t­ic to me.

The first half of the book was ex­tremely dull. I hon­estly al­most stopped read­ing it (glad I didn’t!). The movie cuts out most of the bor­ing stuff and rightly fo­cuses a good deal of at­ten­tion on Lisa­beth, who def­in­itely is the star. ••

Movie Grade: A

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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