The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Genre : Thriller/Drama
Release : December 20, 2011
Run Time : 158 minutes
Director : David Fincher
Cast : Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright
Rating 5/5: A well made film worthy of the year of the dragon.
A publicly shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist, gets a chance at redemption by helping an old business tycoon find out what happened to a woman that has been missing for 40 years, with the help of a skilled hacker.
As the word visceral goes around to describe many aspects of a film, this is one that really gets it when it comes to darker grittier ‘real worlds’. Much like the Swedish film this is an adaptation of, which is also an adaptation of a book series called ‘The Men Who Hate Women’, this films doesn’t hold many punches. Having seen both versions, but not reading the original novel series I can still say that both films are good but approach the story in different ways. But here, we’re talking about the American Hollywood version.
The film opens with an older gentleman getting a call from someone talking about a particular package that was sent to him. After that, we get a very well done and elaborate almost Bond like opening to the film. It’s incredibly cool looking and makes good use of what Hollywood’s good at doing, which is blowing lots of money on crazy effects that don’t necessarily need to be there but are cool. This initially had me worried, since the original had a much more solemn and quite opening. But after that, the movie starts of proper showing us our lead, Mikael Blomkvist(Daniel Craig).
I’m gonna dispense with explaining much about the beginning of the film and where it starts as I think that’s missing the point of what this films about.
The basis of the plot is that Blomkvist is shamed for running a story on a well-known business man, Wennerstrom, that posted him as being involved with several illegal dealings that essentially helped support his business. Though, with no real sources he was sued by him in turn. Blomkvist is then called by a man representing an older business man in Sweden about a job offer and a way to possibly clear his name. The job is officially to help write a biography of philanthropist Henrik Vanger, but his real job is to find out what happened to his niece, Harriet 40 years ago back in 1966. Mikael agrees and then get wrapped up in the chaotic and more than dysfunctional family and their drama dating back to WWII.
Blomkvist is played as a man with a few quirks and much like the classic straight man. He’s also a man with many flaws, that he really doesn’t do well at hiding. Well, not to the audience anyway. He’s written as more of what we’ve seen in Hollywood as a flawed leading man, his short comings are what make us like him in that we relate to him and like him for what he’s really good at, when it gets its chance to shine. Though, it works here and he’s not flat or un-entertaining, as Daniel Craig brings so much charisma to the character. He drives the film forward in its plot about this long and tumultuous family drama/mystery but doesn’t feel like he’s too out of character.
Next to him, and in contrast to his grounded view, is Lisbeth Salander played here by Rooney Mara. Here’s a the point where i’m going to refer to the Swedish film a bit and only for a little bit. In the Swedish version the character was played by Noomi Rapace, who’s not gone on to more international acclaim. Both women portray Lisbeth as a very withdrawn, unapologetic but intelligent and independent figure. Incredible with computer software both women show us a person who seems more comfortable with seeing people from a distance and through digital spaces than they do in person. While Noomi gave Lisbeth a much more awkward and less welcoming persona, hers was also one that didn’t keep you away. You wanted to know more about her and were delighted when some good things came her way. Rooney’s performance is given more hooks in her dialogue. Its never to the point that it changes the character at all, but it does make her come across as more loveable in a way. I’m not sure how that works for a woman who will have sex with you and leave then just go on to point out several dots of information that you missed, but there it is. Neither is better than the other, and both become absorbed into the roll that its worth noting that praise should be given to a female character that’s not helpless, but also not given the old thrown down your throat kinds of sympathetic angles normally given to the badass woman. You do like her, and you do want to follow her, in part because of the troubles she faces.
Now the film does have its more shocking moments, as they uncover more of the Vanger family’s past to find out what became of young Harriet, we see more of an ugly world that is usually shown in American film. Back when Fincher brought us Se7en, we saw that film here in the states could be just as gritty but with the same attention to story and good acting that could chill you to the bone. In Girl With The Dragon Tattoo we get a more uncomfortable feeling of the things that men are capable of and the subject of violence against women is a central theme here. Its present in not only the investigation Blomkvist and Lisabeth to into the Vanger family, but in what poor events befall Lisbeth herself at a point. Though, she doesn’t take anything passively, she plans her comeback so well and violently its sure to make you more than wince.
This film is not at all what I was worried about when I first saw the opening sequence, while it is cool to see. Its approached at a different angle from the Swedish film, giving a more intercut show of both Mikael and Lisbeth. The relationship is different as well, but not drastic. She is still direct and takes utter control of both what she does, but there’s a slight bit more show of vulnerability in Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth than there is in Noomi Rapace’s. Rapace’s was much more about subtext, which is really what the Swedish film was about in its approach. David Finchers version is a bit easier to follow but does sacrifice some of the wonderful subtext that not only the writing could achieve, but that the actors could put into their performances. Still both are good and giving a well done story with a frightening case they investigate.
While the Swedish Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, is a must see, this is as well. It doesn’t matter which order you watch them in, really both should be watched and appreciated on their own merits. And if you’re not into seeing many of the more family friendly films out now, or need something a bit more mature, you’ll get more that you bargained for in this film. This is also one of those times that I’ll say right out, don’t b**** about that whole policy with R Ratings, this is one film that will warrant teenagers getting kicked out of theaters or outright rejected at the window.
I’ve given a few films an evening, but this is really one that I say is worth every penny. It’s a must see for film buffs and one for those having a waning faith in Hollywood’s ability to produce mature stories. You’re definitely getting that here.