REVIEW: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
I avoided this movie for a long time. See, I got burned back in the day by The Girl With The Pearl Earring. I went to that movie thinking it was The Girl With The Pearl Necklace and about 5 minutes in, realizing my error, vowed to never again see a movie that began it’s title with “The Girl” unless it was called “The Girl With Two Guns And A Knife Who Shoots A Lot Of Jerkoffs In The Face”. I broke my own rule though, bought into the hype and finally sat down to watch it.
The “Girl” of the title is Lisbeth Salander, an ex-con, computer hacker who now works as a researcher. She is hired by a Martin Vanger to investigate Mikael Blomkvist, a high profile journalist who was recently disgraced and sentenced to a prison sentence for libel. She compiles her report unbeknownst to Blomkvist and through digging into his life, gains a level of respect for him. After getting the nod from Lisbeth that Blomkvist is an all right cat, Vanger hires Blomkvist to investigate his family’s oldest secret. His favorite niece Harriet disappeared 40 years ago off of an isolated island and is believed dead. Answers have eluded him all these years and to get peace of mind, Vanger wants Blomkvist to do his own investigation and see if he can wrap it all up.
What follows is a deliberately paced film. Blomkvist begins retracing Harriet’s steps and putting together his list of suspects from within the Vanger family. When he stumbles upon an encoded diary entry that stumps him, Lisbeth reveals herself to help him crack it. From there on, they work together unravelling the mystery and eventually fuck. It’s like Pelican Brief, but good.
I have to mention Pelican Brief because this film is based on an internationally, best-selling novel. The writing is Dan Brown/John Grisham-esque in the way the story presents itself. I will say the pacing is slightly more deliberate and that is one of the areas where I feel the film stumbles a bit, but also reflects the difference between American and European films. An American film studio would’ve had the director trim about 30-45 minutes out of this movie and honestly, it can be done. You’d lose some subtlety and nuance, but it’s possible. As it is now, the film clocks in at about 2-1/2 hours. Most of this is groundwork for the sequels (it’s the first of the trilogy), and what I feel is necessary character development. I personally wasn’t bothered by the length and was there all the way, but people I was watching it with started to wander off at various points. That can be done as the plot isn’t overly complex or anything that hasn’t been seen before. It’s really an old-fashioned whodunnit. A large, old family with lots of money, harboring dark secrets, a few of which are inevitable red herrings. All it’s missing is a parlor scene. It is well done though and the craftsmanship allows you to forgive the cliche.
There are some definite stylistic choices that reflect it’s country of origin. You feel the isolation of both Lisbeth and Blomkvist with landscape shots of the frozen countryside of the island the film takes place on. The acting is low key as well. Nobody is an over-the-top character. Blomkvist is practially a block of wood, but it’s how the part is written and Michael Nyqvist playing the part, is able to impart emotion and emphasis with subtle expressions and gestures. Much of the hype is over Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth and it’s deserved. Lisbeth is all hard exterior. She’s had a rough life and we see events early on that happen to her that are horrifying. You understand why she is the way she is, but Rapace is also able to portray the little glimpses of vulnerability that Lisbeth lets slip now and then expertly, before snapping right back into marble. It’s a great performance and I would like to see what she does with a different character.
Normally I cringe when America decides to remake foreign films. It works out on rare occasions (The Ring kicks Ringu’s ass), but usually it falls flat on it’s face. There’s hope for this one. The story isn’t necessarily unique to it’s country of origin. It could just as easily be set in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. David Fincher’s tapped to direct and they’ve cast Daniel Craig as Blomkvist, who is an upgrade over his Swedish counterpart. Rooney Mara will play Lisbeth Salander and honestly, the film will probably succeed or fail based on her performance. I’m actually looking forward to it.
My Grade: A solid B