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Review: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

December 21st, 2011 in Reviews by 1 Comment

You may know The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as Stieg Larrson’s phenomenal novel. Or you may know it as the similarly phenomenal 2009 Danish movie that adapted it. If you don’t know either then you may now become acquainted with it as director David Fincher’s new film, which is either an adaptation of the novel or a remake of the movie, depending on who you ask.

We’re inclined to lean towards the latter.

The story focuses on Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) a Swedish journalist who finds himself on the losing end of a libel lawsuit. Forced into a career sabbatical, he’s quickly hired by aging business mogul Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Vanger wants Blomkvist to take up residence on the family estate under the guise of writing the wealthy man’s memoirs. In fact, he’s plagued by the unsolved mystery of the disappearance of his beloved niece some forty years earlier. That’s the real story he wants Blomkvist to investigate.

As the intrigue around story becomes more byzantine and dangerous, Blomkvist forms an unlikely alliance with Lisbeth Salinger (Rooney Mara as our titular tattooed girl). See, Salinger is an highly gifted computer savant whose skills were employed by Vanger’s people to perform an excruciatingly thorough background check on Blomkvist before they hired him. She’s also a highly anti-social ward of the state without a shred of skill in the area of human interaction.

Still the pair form dual protagonists in a story that exposes the Vanger family’s lurid past and a string of murders that somehow ties to the disappearance of Harriet.

Fincher does what he does best here, utilizing all his tools as a director to paint a carefully composed picture. From the frigid Swedish setting, the muted color schemes and fine performances by the cast (which also includes Stellan Skarsgard as Vanger’s affable nephew) the director conjures up the emotional steam of Larsson’s story, which is simutaneously isolationist and invasive.

The unfolding mystery with its twists and turns is certainly compelling enough to fill at least 120 of the film’s 158 minutes. That is, if you’re not already familiar with the story.

And therein lies the problem for a great many in the prospective audience of the movie. Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 version is so current and so accessible that it seems likely that many will have already seen it. If they have, Fincher’s version offers precious little to differentiate it. Indeed the mystery becomes tedious as you know exactly where every plot twist will land. The only thing that feels remarkably different are the faces on the screen and the fact that they are speaking English, with Swedish accents.

We’re used to expecting a special experience from Fincher and he provides the opposite here.

The other problem is that Fincher’s movie goes on far too long. After the point where to primary intrigue resolves, and the movie sees its emotional payoff, it continues on for another 20 mintues or so. There’s segment there which amounts a full TV episode that spins Lisabeth into a completely new plotline. We could have done without the movie at the end of the movie.

Still for those who are unfamiliar with either forms of the source material, David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will prove a compelling thriller and worth watching. For the rest of us its a completely unnecessary film and a disappointment that this is what one of America’s most talented directors is spending his efforts on.

Author: Rob Worley

One Comment

Liz Parker - 12/21/2011

I think her name is Lisbeth 🙂 not Lisabeth.

I wasn’t able to make it to the screening Monday, and I haven’t read the books or seen the first (Swedish) film, but the Swedish one is on Netflix so perhaps if I get a minute (or, more accurately, 2.5 hours) I will check it out. 🙂

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