A frustrated Rooney Mara reminds a
sobbing Daniel Craig that
he's "James Bond" and she's using Johnson's "No More Tears"
baby shampoo, so he should "man the hell up" and quit sobbing
like an overgrown toddler whenever a little gets in his precious
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Review Written by: Alex Sandell
When a Hollywood adaptation of
the much beloved Stieg Larsson novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
was announced, moviegoers were justifiably skeptical. A mere two years
earlier a well-liked film version was released with the actors speaking
Swedish and subtitles filling the bottom of the screen. "So, we're
getting a remake because Hollywood doesn't think Americans can read?"
snobby people asked in snobby threads on the Internet machine.
First, this isn't a remake -- its an adaptation of a popular novel.
Second, of course Americans known how to read, most of them just prefer
not to when in a movie theater. There's texting to be done.
Looking at the pedigree of the people involved with the U.S. adaptation
gave "average" fans of the book hope. With the guy behind Schindler's List, Gangs of New York
and American Gangster
(Steven Zaillian) writing the screenplay, there was no doubt this movie
wouldn't flinch. With the manic mind behind Fight Club, Se7en and Zodiac (David
Fincher) brought in as Director, it was clear the film would move while
not moving away from the more controversial elements of the book.
Things looked good. At least until the opening credits. When "The
Immigrant Song" began blasting out of the speakers and a ridiculous,
ill-fitting James Bond-ish credit sequence with phoenix's on fire and
naked oil people hitting one another between bouts of passionate love
making in fields of flying hornets, a person couldn't be blamed for
thinking all the, "Girl
with the Dragon Tattoo went Hollywood" criticisms were
well-founded. But then the actual movie began and thankfully it never
went off the tracks again.
The Girl with the Dragon
Tattoo is the movie you wanted to see while you were
reading the book. It's the very pictures you saw in your head as you
read. The film is faithful. Perhaps too much so. If there's one
complaint, it's that it suffers Harry Potter-itis in that it feels it
must cram nearly everything from the novel into a 2.5 hour film. If you
haven't read the book, expect to do some head-scratching the first
couple times you watch the flick.
Are multiple viewings required? No. But they will be desired. This is
an entertaining movie. And it's one that sticks with you long after you
leave the theater. It's merely unfortunate that it does sometimes feel
like the CliffNotes' Girl
with the Dragon Tattoo instead of a fully unique cinematic
The 2009 adaptation never fully did the novel justice. The sense of
paranoia and dread felt by Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) was never
adequately explored. The guy's basically trapped on an island of misfit
Nazis and their freaky enablers. A close-knit (for all the wrong
reasons) corporate family whom, despite being situated right next to
one another and sharing a common distrust of outsiders, only despise
one thing more than their own blood -- a stranger investigating their
bloodline and looking to solve a mystery thought long dead. That
stranger is Mikael, and the closer he gets to solving the puzzle, the
more this rabid 1% of society close in on him. If not for Lisbeth
Salander (Rooney Mara) -- a somewhat Sociopathic deviant with
super-hacking skills and a taste for Hot Tropic clothing and makeup --
poor Mikael would be devoured. Even with her, the outlook isn't exactly
rosy for this makeshift detective.
The Girl with the Dragon
Tattoo is, more than anything, a really violent whodunit.
If you're a fan of Agatha Christie you'll probably enjoy this film. As
long as you don't mind a handful of sex scenes and a couple of brutal
scenes of rape and/or torture. These scenes were the ones that many
suspected would be watered down for American audiences afraid of things
such as bare breasts and exposed buttocks. While not as intense as the
book, the U.S. Girl
with the Dragon Tattoo is actually a more violent and
sexually graphic adaptation of the novel than its Swedish counterpart.
Take that, sexually liberated Europeans!
But the film isn't there to titillate. David Fincher never lets his
movie devolve into grindhouse camp and, unlike the 2009 film, he never
lets his picture turn into a petty revenge fantasy. The scenes meant to
be brutal are brutal. Not fun. Brutal. Some may need to look away. None
will enjoy these moments. But fans of the book and fans of quality film
will likely enjoy the movie, nonetheless. Not in spite of its
uncompromising handling of these scenes, but in part because of it.
David Fincher's The
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is probably as good an
adaptation as a fan could ask for. The director constantly cuts between
Mikael and Lisbeth, even mid-scene. At first this comes off as
distracting, but by the time the film is done it is more like a
revelation. In the books -- particularly the second -- our lead
characters are rarely together. By constantly cutting between their
simultaneous and related sleuthing, Fincher gives the impression
they're working together even when they're hundreds of miles apart.
It's a very clever way to present the story and makes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
a special viewing experience. Mikael and Lisbeth don't feel distant, as
they did in the earlier film or even in the book, they feel like
they're constantly working together, toward the same goal, even when
they're not. It's an innovative way of storytelling that should leave
fans and newcomers alike equally impressed.
As far as the acting? The cast is top-notch. Especially our leads.
Rooney Mara, a trust-fund baby but relative newcomer to film, more than
holds her own. She owns the character of Lisbeth Salander. It will be
hard for you to accept anyone else in the role. Daniel Craig, while
initially coming off as too fit and heroic for Mikael Blomkvist,
manages to convince us that he's just frumpy enough, just insecure
enough, just clumsy enough and just gullible enough, to actually be
something other than a super hero. Something more than a spin on James
Bond. He manages to convince us he's merely an average joe. Someone in
over their head, but unwilling to admit to that fact or surrender.
The Girl with the Dragon
Tattoo, thankfully, never lives up to its opening credit
sequence. This isn't James Bond. This isn't an action-packed thriller.
This is a relatively subtle mystery and a compelling character study.
The filmmakers clearly got the novel and, consequently, get the most
out of the novel. This isn't a Hollywood sellout. This is Hollywood
showing what it can do at its best. Impress, surprise
and leave audiences begging for more. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
is just what the fans were demanding.
83 out of 100
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©2012 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved]. Copy this without my
permission and I'll send Lisbeth after you with her tattoo gun. You do
know what she can do with that gun, don't you?