Review - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), R, 158 minutes - About a year and a half ago, just after I had seen the Swedish adaptation of this best selling first installment to late author Stieg Larsson's  Millennium trilogy I read the news that an American adaptation was going to be made.  My first reaction was 'why bother?'.  The novel was excellent, was equaled by the Swedish film starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, and at the time was only a year old (my original review can be found here).  I generally adhere to the belief that film remakes aren't necessary.  Every once in a while they can be worth it if they are far enough removed from the original (i.e. the Cohen brothers' True Grit last year).  The key to remember in this case though is that David Fincher did not set out to remake the Swedish film but to provide an English language adaptation that would be more widely distributed here in the States.  The fact that Fincher was named the director for this film really intrigued me.  If there's one thing that he knows how to do, its making films with a serial killer element (Se7en, Zodiac).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is primarily a murder mystery, and towards the end of the film begins to make a turn towards a story of political corruption and conspiracy.  Those plotlines are explored in the second and third books of Larsson's trilogy and, with a little luck, will be completed on the big screen by Fincher and his excellent cast.  The story revolves around two main characters: Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) and Michael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig).  Blomkvist is a political journalist who is hired by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the disappearance of his niece nearly 40 years earlier.  Salander is a ward of the state and a hacker that does investigative/background work for a security firm.  The two don't even meet until almost half way through the movie, so if you find yourself asking 'how the heck do these two story lines connect?' just keep watching.  It's a very unique way in which the two come to work together to solve Harriet Vanger's death.

The novel has sold so well globally that there's a good chance that many of you already know the story and what to expect from the film's R rating.  But for those that have not (or for those who may think 'they wouldn't show that on film'), I feel obligated to provide fair warning of three graphic/disturbing scenes.  Two  involving rape, and one revenge.  As brutal as they are, they really are integral to showing us how and why Lisbeth is the extremely unique character that she is.

I am a huge fan of Noomi Rapace's portrayal of Lisbeth in the Swedish film, and quite honestly, didn't think that anyone would be able to match the emotion and intensity of her performance.  That being said, Rooney Mara plays a pretty convincing Lisbeth Salander.  Mara may not be quite as intense in places, but she handles the character's social awkwardness and interactions quite well.  I still prefer Rapace's turn personally, but that may be because that was the embodiment of Lisbeth that I saw first.  I will be interested to hear what you all think.

Mara's and Craig's performances are strong and lead a solid cast that includes the aforementioned Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson, and Goran Visnjic.

David Fincher's adaptation is excellent in my opinion.  He shifted a couple of story beats around and tweaked one or two things (discussed below in the spoiler section), but the essence of the story is all there.  He also brought in Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to score the film (as he did on The Social Network) and it sets the tone of the film perfectly.

I highly recommend seeing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it is probably best to save it for another weekend as the content isn't exactly family friendly holiday fare (although it does take place around the holidays).  It also pushes two hours and forty minutes in length, so be prepared to sit! 











*****SPOILERS*****

Just a couple of differences that I noticed in this interpretation:
- They added more of a physical relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael.  I'm sure this was to further drive home how devastated Lisbeth was at the end when she saw Mikael with Erika.  It would also set up her ongoing apprehension over accepting Mikael's help in the sequels.

- Lisbeth's attempted murder of her father isn't brought up until the last few minutes of the movie.  In the books and the Swedish adaptation, it was at least flashed back to at an earlier point in the story.

- Harriet Vanger ends up having been in London living under her cousin's name, not running a sheep farm in Australia as in the book.

- The visual of the opening credits felt kind of odd with the rest of the movie.  They sort of reminded me of the music video-like lead ins on the James Bond films (slightly ironic since Daniel Craig is the current Bond).  The musical choice was great though, using the full version of the Rezner/Karen O cover of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song. 

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