About a year ago, I saw this Swedish film called The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and was utterly riveted. It’s a stunning film expertly told, perfectly acted (especially the star role, played by Noomi Rapace) and paced with tantalizing control. There were a mere few criticisms, and none of them major, and when I heard of an American remake, I grew excited at the idea of another rendition of this intensely thrilling story and its haunting characters. I felt nervous for whatever actress would fill Rapace’s shoes, certain of the near-impossibility of reaching the incredibly high standard she set in her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander, and both anxious and curious to see which details would be changed/omitted/added to the American version of this dark, intriguing tale.
I’ll admit that there were some changes I liked and some I didn’t, but, actually, I enjoyed the American The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo every bit as much as I enjoyed the Swedish version. Equally riveting, gripping and tumultuous, it held me captivated for nearly three hours. Rooney Mara, who took on the challenge of playing Lisbeth Salander, blew my mind with her fierce, compelling performance and Daniel Craig (who, I must say, has never before made a lasting impression on me) gave an engaging portrayal of the journalist Mikael Blomkvist.
Director David Fincher, of Fight Club, The Social Network and (the under-appreciated) The Game fame, brought the grit and severity to this flick that he’s shown us before. The story jumps around a bit but I had no trouble following it. The brutal rape scene scarred me, for sure, but I don’t think its graphic realism was simply gratuitous. It serves to evoke sympathy and understanding for Lisbeth, along with admiration when she exacts a most deserving and creative revenge, and provides insight into her inner workings, something not otherwise easily done since she is closed-off to the extreme. Most importantly, the violent scene helps create the undertone for one of the film’s main themes: the obsession too many men in the world have with degrading and destroying women. This is a theme that stretches far beyond the misfortune Lisbeth has with her legal guardian and is vital to this installment’s plot along with the larger plot of the trilogy.
The movie begins with the conviction of journalsit Blomkvist (Craig) for slander. He accused multimillionaire business tycoon Wennerstrom of being a key player in an international organized crime syndicate but once his article became public, his sources evaporated. He resigns from Millenium magazine and means to lay low before serving his sentence but is immediately offered a job by wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger to investigate the decades-old disappearance and presumed murder of his 16 year-old niece. Prior to offering this job to Mikael, Vanger had an extensive background check done on him by computer hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander, who Mikael eventually hires as a research assistant to aid him in his investigation. The chemistry between Craig and Mara felt easy and natural and provided a much needed reprieve from this extremely heavy story. I liked that the research done by both Lisbeth and Mikael was accomplished by using Google and iPhoto as opposed to crime labs or dental records or other such scientific methods largely unavailable to journalists and computer hackers. Though this is far from an ordinary tale, there’s a frank realism to it. I don’t want to give any of the film’s secrets away so I’ll say nothing further of the plot.
This is most definitely not a family friendly film, as graphic violence, racism, sexual oppression and nudity are abundant. I do highly recommend it, despite the extreme severity of its themes and the discomfort some of the graphic scenes will undoubtedly cause. (I recommend watching the Swedish GWTDT as well.) Mara is magnetic and both main characters Lisbeth and Mikael draw you into their lives as much as the central mystery draws you into the story itself. I waited impatiently for months for this flick to come out and usually, when a movie is so eagerly anticipated, it doesn’t live up to the overly hyped expectations. This one was an exception, for me, and now I’ll eagerly await the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, which I’m sure will be made and released here within the next 18 months or so. I sincerely hope Craig and Mara and director Fincher sign on to complete the trilogy. I’m only sorry that the creator of this outstanding series, author Steig Larsson, didn’t live to see its international success. (He died suddenly before his novels were published, while still in the final stages of editing.) I’d like to thank him for this.