December 23, 2011
Review - " The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo "
(in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan
Sarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson
I'm not a fan of American remakes of foreign films that are already
great the way they are. I have to admit that I went into Girl With the
Dragon Tattoo with preconceptions. I was expecting (and hoping) to
review it and say the US version of Dragon Tattoo was a pale shadow
of the Swedish original. I am big enough to admit that I was wrong. This
Dragon Tattoo is at least as good, perhaps even better, than the
Based on the Stieg Larsson novel, which spawned a Swedish version
in 2009, the movie plays to Fincher's strengths, with its dark elements
and cool feel combining for a bracing pop-culture experience. The
story is a little too over the top, a little too uneven and has at least a
couple too many endings to be called great, but it's not for lack of
trying on Fincher's part.
Or on Rooney Mara's. She is magnetic as Lisbeth Salander, the title
character whose damaged life leads her to extremes. Also good, in a
much more subtle way, is Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, a
disgraced journalist whose shot at redemption leads to much more
than he bargained for.
The film opens with Blomkvist's conviction on charges of libeling
Hans-Erik Wennerstrom (Ulf Friberg), a billionaire financier. This
threatens the future of Millennium, the magazine he runs with his
sometime lover Erika Berger (Robin Wright). Then Blomkvist gets an
offer out of the blue from Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), an
industrialist whose family helped build modern Sweden: He wants Blomkvist to live on the island his family has inhabited for
generations and write a history of the clan and its industries. You will not find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
But what he really wants is the solution to a mystery. His grandniece Harriet disappeared 40 years before, and Vanger is
convinced that someone in the family had something to do with it. This haunts him, and he wants Blomkvist's help in finding
out what really happened, with the promise of good money and revenge against Wennerstrom. Before offering Blomkvist the
job, Vanger had the writer's background checked -- by Lisbeth, an expert hacker whose methods sometimes fall on the far
side of legal. Tattooed, pierced and surly, she works for a security firm, but does things her own way.
Lisbeth has been in and out of trouble --
and mental hospitals -- most of her life, after
a horrific childhood. When her legal guardian
has a stroke, she gets a new one, a sadistic
animal who subjects her to degradations until
finally raping her in a truly disturbing scene.
Lisbeth's revenge lets us know how far she
will go when hurt; this scene is no less
Eventually Blomkvist finds out that Lisbeth
snooped on him and he hires her to help dig
up the dirt on the Vanger family, a motley
bunch that includes a few ancient Nazis.
Besides Henrik, we don't see much of the
Vangers -- surviving Nazis tend to keep to
themselves, one supposes -- with the
exception of Martin (Stellan Skarsgard),
Henrik's grandnephew who has been running
As they search for the truth about Harriet it becomes clear that there is more to the story; they appear to be on the trail of a
serial killer of women. This inspires Lisbeth, and she and Blomkvist grow closer as they work together. It's a unique
relationship, one we haven't seen before, and Blomkvist seems as curious about it as we are. At times he seems like more of
an observer than a participant, with Craig giving him a bemused sort of charm.
If you haven't read the book or seen the
original movie, you may be surprised that
the film is as much about Blomkvist as it is
Lisbeth, if not more. But Mara brings such a
punked-out intensity to every scene she is
in that she takes over the film. Lisbeth isn't
just looking for information about other
people. She's looking for herself, looking to
feel something in a world that has wounded
her time and again. Mara's performance
has a ferocity that will linger in your mind
long after the two or three endings have
See it if you dare, but prepare yourself.
This film is, at times, graphic and brutal.