The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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.

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20 responses to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

  1. Pingback: News online music movies sport » Archiwa bloga » 5 reasons why you should see ‘Dragon Tattoo’·

  2. This is exactly what I wanted to hear. I was somewhat disappointed by the original adaptation and was hoping Fincher would improve upon it with his own sense of style. It looks like he’s done just that!

    • Yeah it’s for sure in my top 10 of the year! But I don’t know, I was very torn between an 8 and a 9 but went 9 due to my love for Fincher and the fact that it’s one of the rare films this year that actually topped expectations; there were quite a few that didn’t.

    • I feel as there’s a division between those who didn’t like the original that much who loved this one, and those who loved the original and see flaw in Fincher’s adaptation. I often review films by placing them in the context they come from. The Swedish adaptation drowned in the glorious vastness of the Swedish crime film tradition, whereas David Fincher’s has created something fresh and gritty for Hollywood, and in that context (and even on it’s own) it excells. An 8.5 would maybe be more accurate, if it makes any difference haha!

      • I just watched the Swedish version again and for the most part I wasn’t a big fan. I think this can be attributed to the source material, though. The parallel stories are very unevenly structured, and not particularly interesting (though Lisbeth’s story is horrifying) – but when they come together to work on the case, the film hits a new level. About a 70/80 mins in. I loved those scenes – but then once the tension is over, the conclusion drags. I think the same issues will exist in this version, but at least Fincher and Reznor/Ross will make it look and sound fantastic. I liked Rapace, but I’m really intrigued by Rooney Mara’s performance. From early reports, she has topped Rapace. So, I think I am certain to like Fincher’s because I wasn’t blown away by the original, but I think the dense source material will plague this version too. We shall see :-) Merry Christmas Anna!!

      • Yeah well you are absolutely right there are so many better crime novels in Sweden, I never really got why the Millenium trilogy made it big. I guess it’s the controversial scenes and the character of Lisbeth Salander, who is very “media sexy”. There is an issue in this version as well, it takes quite a while for the pair to unite; I didn’t mnd it, but for some that’s the core of the film, the relationship between Blomkvist and Salander.

  3. It’s certainly worth seeing if you missed the original. If you saw it, however, there’s no way of unseeing it, and nothing in the new one to top it. Craig and Mara are great here though and Fincher brings so much more to this film like I was expecting too. Good review. Check out mine when you can.

  4. Great review. A 9 out of 10? Wow.
    Despite the great reviews it has been getting (no surprise for Mr. Fincher), I am one of those that read the book and watched the “original” film recently.
    I think I am going to wait a bit like you suggest to watch the “remake” even though I really want to get the full movie theater experience.
    Maybe I should have waited a while longer and skipped the “original” altogether. Ugh

    Don’t forget to visit my blog when you get a chance. I wish I had more time to keep up with it, but I have been swamped with work in the past few months. Sigh

    Niels

  5. Great review, I really loved this film. As you stated I liked it even more than the original. Rooney was weird in this film but somehow I found her more approachable than Rapace in the first film.

  6. I’m hearring good things about this remake. It amazes me how they got away with the bold poster showing her breasts, how did the censorship boards allow that?

  7. That’s good insight you’ve got there, I wrote mine too. One thing I dug in the original 2009 film was how they opened Lisbeth’s past (scene of litting her father on fire in his car, her mother etc). With Fincher’s adaptation this was held back. I do hope he comes back with an equally strong The Girl Who Played with Fire.

    • That’s true! Some of the timing was different though for the film. The second one could open with that? I really liked the opening sequence’s reference to the oil and the fire. I’ll check your review asap!

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