‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ Movie Review
Wasting virtually no time, studio executives set out to produce an English adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s uber-successful best selling Millenium series. The first tale, titled The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was already made in native Sweden in 2009, but that didn’t stop Hollywood from creating an English version. While some may find the remake (I prefer the term re-adaptation) unnecessary, the people who care the most about the book should find this version better.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a complex story, which on the surface looks like a classic murder mystery. Deeper down, though, the story is really about one dynamic character.
The plot begins with the disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) being found guilty for libelous remarks he made in his Millenium magazine. Out of a job, and money, an old, wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) hires Blomkvist to write a memoir of his family, with the real occupation being to find out who killed his niece decades earlier. Blomkvist must isolate himself on Hedestad Island, where the crime occurred, in an attempt to solve the odd disappearance.
Simultaneously, the sneaky, post-punk, and seemingly insane Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is proving herself as the greatest hacker in all of Sweden. However, her fractured lifestyle has made her a ward of the state, putting her in a submissive position to power. When Mikael needs an assistant, she becomes the best option.
Since the story is bound to the book, it suffers from some of the same downfalls. Although I find the book to be highly enjoyable, I’m not one to argue its perfection. It’s densely written, complicated, and almost too painfully slow to begin with. The book, and this movie, do make the ride worth it by the end. With its booming runtime, viewers get their money’s worth by the end, too.
Although I found the first adaptation to be very good, I felt like they shortchanged the ultimate take-home point of the story. This made the final conclusion seem compromised, ultimately tarnishing the film. The book climaxes relatively early, but it’s the third act that creates the emotional reaction that should be the climax. Without this part, the film turns into a locked-door crime mystery, which is limited in options.
This years Dragon Tattoo took all of the flaws and fixed them. It is important to realize that the story is about the actual girl with the dragon tattoo, which is Lisbeth. It isn’t about murder, corruption, or the Vanger family. It is about that sickly skinny, tattooed and pierced woman who rightfully hates men. She should, and is, the center of the story. Without her, the flaws would surface quickly and ultimately make the film forgettable.
David Fincher was smart to recognize the importance of Lisbeth. He didn’t shy away from her, creating the best character in cinema this year. She also may be the greatest female badass to ever hit the screen.
Fincher also doesn’t shy away from the source material, which is bleak and brutal. In his big-budget R-Rated thriller, the film is packed with purely heinous parts which warrant sufficient warning. The fact that there are multiple (not just one) rape scenes isn’t enough of a warning. The sex is provocative, making some question even its R rating. Be warned, the film is twisted in every sense of the word.
When the end credits role, the sincere emotional reaction that the book creates is replicated. With this feeling, I can’t help but laud about the success of the storytelling and cinematography. Fans of the book will not feel shortchanged, and people unfamiliar with the book will understand the hype behind it.
While it isn’t the greatest movie ever made, and probably not even the best of the this year, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a great adaptation of the book. There are still major differences that may make some sticklers cringe, but Lisbeth isn’t shortchanged, which is what really matters. She’s beautifully insane.
For her performance, Rooney Mara deserves most of the credit for this film. She is worthy of every award she’ll get. Likewise, Fincher deserves a lot of credit for his direction, even if it isn’t his best serial killer movie he’s made to date. He does an outstanding job telling the complex and twisted journey that ultimately creates one of the oddest love stories of all time.
With a previewed warning of brutality and tragedy, I recommend a viewing. The ambient soundtrack (created by Trent Reznor), chilling tone, and great performances make the film unforgettable. It certainly isn’t a feel-good movie, but it never aimed at being one.