Thursday 22 December 2011

Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I have not read any of the books. I did not see the 2009 Swedish film. I am coming to the table with an uncluttered mind. Okay, some may argue I'm coming to the table with an empty head, but that's another story.

From the opening credits with their pounding rendition of the Led Zeppelin's 1970 rock classic Immigrant Song and the black images of oil pouring over human figures, we have a dark, brooding, complex story that reels you into its mysterious web of intrigue with a cast of characters that can only be described as unique, sometimes far fetched but oh so fascinating. The girl, yes that girl with the tattoo is so broken from a life so unbelievably horrible, it is hard to believe she will ever find her way out into the sunlight. Nevertheless, the gods decided somewhere along the way to make up for their oversight by blessing her with near genius mental abilities from a photographic memory to superior computer hacking skills. It is that contrast which fascinates us throughout the story: the dark depravity of our humanity with the light of our genius to rise above the mundane.

It will not be much of a spoiler alert considering the book, the previous film and the trailers to briefly describe this murder mystery. Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a journalist in trouble over a libel case due to a tell-all magazine article about a powerful but corrupt businessman, Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Out of the blue, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), another powerful businessman, hires Blomkvist under the guise of writing his memoirs to investigate the forty year old murder of his niece, Harriet Vanger and in payment, he will give Blomkvist the proof he needs to fight the libel case and bring down Wennerstrom. From there, Blomkvist moves onto the Vanger family estate and begins an investigation into the convoluted history of the family discovering some startling secrets that date back decades to World War II.

Christopher Plummer is just delightful as the impish old patriarch of the Vanger family. I can't think of anyone with both the gravitas and the tongue-in-cheek twinkle in his eye for such a role. At the age of 82 (born Dec 13/1929), Mr. Plummer is still a force to be reckoned with.

Daniel Craig doesn't have to worry about type casting. I didn't think of him once as being James Bond. His unshaven face captured the investigating journalist financially broken by the libel case and he was did an excellent job of imparting the detective who ends up in over his head.

But the central figure, the maker of the entire film, is Lisbeth Salander as played by Rooney Mara. The character is quite extraordinary to start with when you consider the list of things this young woman has had to endure in her lifetime. The actress Rooney Mara has given an unbelievable performance by capturing the caged animal demeanour of Lisbeth. Many times Lisbeth can't look people in the eye. She has been beaten by people, rejected by society, and in general ignored having been made a ward of the state. The symbolism of this last ignominy is that no one, literally no one wants her and it is finally the state that has to take care of her.

Lisbeth's blessing or curse is that she is really smart, the tattooed pierced social misfit as an idiot savant in a world of supposedly normal people. I say supposedly normal as this film ended up with an R rating for both its sexual and violent themes. Life does have its bad people however there are varying degrees of badness and sometimes that badness crosses the line into depravity. This film shows some people who can only be qualified as evil, not bad, but truly evil. These are the type of people that when you see their crime, your first reaction isn't to phone the police but to get out a gun and shoot them yourself. Wow. There are certainly various shades of gray when we try to describe what is normal in society and here I use air quotes for the word normal but this film shows some bad which is beyond dark to absolutely black.

American Remake of Swedish Film
Hollywood has a reputation of pilfering foreign films to repackage them for a global audience. Is this necessary? The real question may be an unkind one. Sweden has a population of just under ten million people. The original 2009 film was made in Swedish. Yes, foreign films do make the rounds with either subtitles or dubbed versions but somehow an English version of just about anything automatically seems to mean a larger audience. Okay, this is just me talking and an expert who has studied the idea may prove otherwise but if I look at other forms of entertainment, why, for instance, did the Swedish musical group ABBA choose to record in English as opposed to their native language? Would anybody guess for a wider audience?

I have not seen the original Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but have read repeatedly that it is terrific. This film was made for $13 million and has apparently earned over a hundred million dollars at the worldwide box office. That is a very, very impressive return on one's investment.

Will this Hollywood remake eclipse the success of that film? Its budget clocked in at $100 million so it's got quite a way to go to even turn a profit, never mind equalling the original's return on investment. Nevertheless, this remake has two things going for it. First of all, the remake is good but secondly, the remake is in English. It is an interesting question to ask as to why the Swedish makers did not choose from the outset to do their film in English. Okay, that may seem sacrilege to the Swedish language and culture but when it comes to making a profit, pride is not an asset. Let's see how things unfold over the coming weeks and months.

Official Trailer

Teaser Trailer (Immigrant Song)

Final Word
I'm curious. I go to an early show and of course, the theatre was far from full. I noticed that people would come to a completely empty row and sit at the end. Why not move into the middle? Heck, I'll step over a dozen people to get a center seat but it would seem that not everyone values such a position in front of the screen. Odd. Okay, odd to me but maybe not to you.

I greatly enjoyed the film with its mystery, its suspense and of course, its characters. The girl, the main character, is riveting and the relationships she has with the various so-called normal people in the film are quite fascinating. I highly recommend this film; it is excellent. In fact, I am now curious to see the original Swedish film and maybe I might even get around to reading the books. Good stuff.


Rotten Tomatoes: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: 85%
Brutal yet captivating, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the result of David Fincher working at his lurid best with total role commitment from star Rooney Mara.

Wikipedia: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 film)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a 2011 English-language drama/thriller film and the second film to be adapted from the Swedish novel by Stieg Larsson. The first was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (original title of both novel and film in Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor – literally – Men who hate women) – released in 2009. Both novel and film titles were translated for the English-speaking market as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

official web site: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Rotten Tomatoes: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009): 86%
Its graphic violence and sprawling length will prove too much for some viewers to take, but Noomi Rapace's gripping performance makes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an unforgettable viewing experience.

Wikipedia: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009 film)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor, literally Men Who Hate Women) is a 2009 Swedish film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Swedish author/journalist Stieg Larsson. It is the first book in the trilogy known as the "Millennium series", published in Sweden in 2005. The director is Niels Arden Oplev. By August 2009, it had been sold to 25 countries outside Scandinavia, most of them planning a release in 2010, and had been seen by more than 6 million people in the countries where it was already released.

official web site: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

my blog: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Immigrant Song
video, lyrics, background information and a link to the original Led Zeppelin version.


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