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Movie Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

December 21, 2011

Like a lot of people, I didn’t see any need for an Americanized version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The Swedish film was quite good, and it seemed as though actress Noomi Rapace had cornered the market on the character of Lisbeth Salander with her tough as nails portrayal of the troubled hacker. It was hard to imagine anyone else stepping into her motorcycle boots.

However, I’ve learned to give director David Fincher the benefit of the doubt after he pulled off The Social Network last year. Here he has improved on the original Dragon Tattoo by bringing a more stylistic rendering of the chilly, dark story to the screen. The opening credits are spectacular, and set the tone for the movie with black liquid, writhing bodies, and metal. I had the same feeling of exhilaration when I did when I saw Fincher’s opening titles during Se7en (1995); I had never seen anything like it. Of course we’ve seen those imitated countless times by now, but it was completely visionary at the time.

If you are unfamiliar with Dragon Tattoo’s story, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has recently been discredited thanks to a lawsuit, and his magazine is on the verge of bankruptcy. With few other options on the table, Mikael accepts a job doing investigative work for Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the elderly patriarch of a very dysfunctional family. Henrik wants Mikael to find out what happened to his niece, who literally vanished decades ago. Mikael and Henrik enlist the services of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an antisocial loner with a penchant for computer hacking.

Lisbeth is a ward of the state, and a detestable man in charge of her case sexually assaults her in exchange for allotting her some of her own money. It’s truly depraved what the man does to Lisbeth, but let’s just say he gets his comeuppance, and then some. This is a tough sale for Mara, who probably weighs 80 pounds soaking wet, but she does a good job convincing us that she is a badass, and crazy enough to follow through with her threats. While Rapace’s Lisbeth is more believable in the physical sense, Mara’s version really shows the vulnerability beneath her tough exterior, piercings, and tattoos. Both women have done an excellent job with the role. Mara’s look is a bit more androgynous-she has no hips and has a boy body, and her bleached eyebrows give her a haunted, sad look.

Lots of secrets are uncovered during the course of Dragon Tattoo. We learn about Lisbeth’s past, Mikael’s legal woes and the Vanger family. As Henrik says of his own family, “You will be investigating thieves, misers, bullies, and the most detestable collection of people that you will ever meet; my family.” By the end of the film, you’ll see that truer words have never been spoken.

Like most of Fincher’s films, music plays an integral part of the movie. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provide the pulsating score, and you will never listen to Enya’s “Sail Away” without a certain scene coming to mind. Karen O gnashes her way through Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” during the opening titles.

The film runs two hours and forty minutes, but it didn’t really feel that long. I still had trouble reconciling the physical relationship that develops between Lisbeth and Mikael. It seems so contradictory to Lisbeth’s nature, and it felt that way in the Swedish version as well. However, I felt like Christopher Plummer fit the role of Henrik better in this version.

An excellent supporting cast includes Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard and Joely Richardson. Overall, the film captures atmosphere of the book, so fans should be pleased. Fincher has produced another must-see movie.

Rating 4.5/5



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