Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 David Fincher)
If you like glossy, psychological thrillers then you will like David Fincher's remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo based on the late Stieg Larsson's first novel from his Millennium trilogy.
I have not read any of Larsson's books but I knew it was immensely popular. Nor have I seen the Swedish film regarding the same novel. This review is for the American film directed by David Fincher. The movie opens with a pumping rendition of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song and quick cuts of images bathed in what looks like black tar. You knew right away that you were going to watch something with a complicated plot and you had better settle down and pay attention. The first 30 minutes shows vignettes regarding the background of Lisbeth Salander, the antihero, Mikael Blomkvist the main character, and how they get involved with the wealthy, powerful, and corrupt Vanger family. Blomkvist is a discredited journalist for Millennium magazine, who takes up an assignment at the request of Henrik Vanger, the patriarch of one of the most prominent families in Sweden. Vanger wants Blomkvist to investigate his family of "thieves, misers, bullies, the most detestable collection of people" -- to solve a family mystery; the disappearance of Harriet, his granddaughter, that occurred 40 years ago. Blomkvist needs a research assistant to help him in solving the mystery. He is referred to Salander, a 23-year-old alienated, streetwise, bisexual computer hacker with phenominal abilities and a troubled past. As Blomkvist and Salander delve further into the mystery, they find a family pockmarked by dissipation, nazis, and major family dysfunction. The duo tries to solve the riddle in Harriet's bible and find that Harriet's disappearance is tied to the violent murders of several women in Sweden. Working with Blomkvist, Salander lets her guard down with a man she doesn't consider predatory and can actually trust. As they get closer to solving the mystery, Blomkvist is shot at by an unknown assailant, Henrik Vanger has a heart attack, and the rest of the family may send Blomkvist and Salander packing, preferring to let sleeping dogs lie.
The filmgoer should be warned right now that the R-rating is deserved. The sex is not gratuitous but it is somewhat explicit. In fact the sex scenes are not sexy and there is a rape scene. Sweden looks really cold and there seems to be a remote quality to the relationships.
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This is the Swedish film version
Rooney Mara play Lisbeth Salander, as an abandoned waif with minimal social skills, repressed feelings, facial piercing, no eyebrows and goth outfits. She emanates self-hatred in a quiet way. Salander is a ward of the Swedish state because of a history of violent behavior and her life has been subjected to the indecencies, injustices, and instability of relying on the state and its petty bureaucrats that take advantage of her and to whom she must rely on for support. Mikael Blomkvist is ably played by Daniel Craig. Although their two characters have an intimate relationship, there seems to be zero sex appeal between the two of them. The sex between them is perfunctory and one of convenience. I'm not sure if that's because they play Swedish characters or if that's how the Swedish author depicts the relationship. One of the more interesting characters is Henrik Vanger, superbly acted by Christopher Plummer. Plummer sees Henrik as a proud industrialist who is lord of all he surveys and is satisfied by his business accomplishments but anguished by what he considers his failures in his family life. Plummer plays Henrik with a wry aplomb and you can't help but sympathize with his character. David Fincher directed this movie with a highly stylized appearance with lots of quick cuts, multiple scene changes, interspersed with flashbacks to keep the story moving. What moviegoers will find engrossing is the search for Harriet and the intrigues surrounding the Vanger family and how it ties it with even more unresolved murders that have not been uncovered. The movie tells a very good story.
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