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