The akward feeling when you’re completely and utterly right about a film. With The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo David Fincher delivers a strong, capable, dark thriller that rivals and exceeds the original.
In principal I am against remakes, but they do seem to get an unnecessary reputation for being some form of exploitation, a sign of American arrogance and stupidity, a symbol of the anglocentricity of the film industry. But in this discussion we do tend to forget the gems, those films that were highly regarded as brilliant and their remade status was kept on the downlow; The Departed, Scarface, True Grit, The Fly.. the list goes on and on of ‘remakes’, which I’d rather call, at least in this cas, a re-adaptation.
When the source material is as strong as it is with The Girl (Sweden, and the rest of the Nordic countries are an endless source of quality crime writing), and you give it to a genius like Fincher, who I’ve never hid my extreme admiration for, I had little doubt that this film wouldn’t be the strongest thriller of the year.
To those not familiar with the book version of the Millenium-trilogy, I urge you to read it before this film. There’s a vast array of characters, personalities and moods that lack a certain depth due to the limited onscreen time they can have. But as a short summary of this journalistic crime thriller, I’d focus on Daniel Craig’s Mikael Blomkvist.
Blomkvist is the head of a political journal, Millenium, in Stockholm. He’s reputation is tarnished when he accuses business mogul Wetterström of fraud and allaround bad behaviour. He’s sued for slander but survives without jailtime. The tail between his legs, he jumps at the opportunity to slay Wetterström once and for all when it’s given to him by Henrik Vanger (the brilliant Christopher Plummer), head of the biggest family owned bussiness in Sweden. Henrik promises Mikael Wetterström’s head on a platter if he can solve the 40 year-old mystery of his murdered loved one, Henrietta. As Mikael moves into the small town of Hedestad he’s joined by controversial badass Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a state ward, computer genius and a troubled, yet brilliant mind. As they stumble upon a series of religious murders, both of their lives seem to be under threat.
With this fim, all eyes really are on Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. There aren’t many actors who can pull off rape and torture, especially actors who are 20-odd and female.. (Can you really see Emma ‘Hermione Granger’ Watson doing that? She auditioned and allegedly cut her hair to impress Fincher by showing dedication.) .. But I have to say, boy did Mara deliver. She was the unknown wild card with a 4 minute role in Fincher’s previous success, The Social Network.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is near perfection in many ways; the impeccable directing, unbelievable art direction, magnificient soundtrack (Reznor and Ross hitting al the right notes again) and great actors make this the sleeper hit of the year.
Stellan Skarsgårds performance as Martin Vanger went from his usual nice guy forté to the creepiest guy onscreen (and this includes a rival performance of Salander’s rapist). Christopher Plummer is convincing as usual. The most lukewarm performance I guess is Craig’s but his character isn’t really ment to outshine the others as there are so many characters to deal with, Craig’s Blomkvist serves as a type of catalyst to others as well as holding his own.
Unfortunately there are some downsides; I felt the relationship between Blomkvist and Salander wasn’t given enough time to grow and in the beginning it felt unnatural, it did however develop into something tangible and real towards the end. One thing I couldn’t get a hold of was the accents (glimpses of them in the trailer below). Are they Swedish accents? Everyone speaks English, Craig with his beautiful English twang, but Mara has adopted a strange general European brogue that confused me to a high extent. I mean, I understand that the characters couldn’t really all have variying British and American accents, but this seemed like an odd choice that did quite bug me throughout the film as the ones who actually spoke the ‘best’ (and by ‘best’ I mean least Swedish) English were the Swedish actors.
Despite these minor flaws I would have to say that not only does The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo exceed what was done with these books previously, it holds a place in my (and I think many other’s) Top 10 for the year. Those purists who still cling on to the notion of “the original being better” I encourage you to see other Swedish crime film, place the series in context and realize it’s in no way superior to the best of Wallander, Beck and others.
Where the original was more chaotic, Fincher’s take retains a serenity throughout the grit and gore. The two Lisbeth Salander’s battling it out would be a very close call, with Rapace taking home the anger and angst trophy, Mara taking the humanity award.
For me the film-going experience was highly elevated due to the fact that I’ve last seen Män Som Hatar Kvinnor in 2009 and didn’t remember every detail. If you’re in the group who’s going to see Fincher’s film without seeing Neils Arden Oplev’s version I’d say .. don’t watch the ‘original’ before. Let Fincher’s dark world take you in first, and then compare. I’ll think you’ll find to stories, same in source material, but with two different atmospheres and strengths.
9 / 10
You Will Like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo if…
– you’re not looking for puppies and sunshine, but a dark, gritty, shocking tale of mystery and excitement.
– you’re a fan of Fincher’s.
– this remake has made you curious of how good/bad it will be.