REVIEW: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010)

1 06 2011

After seeing the awesome new trailer for David Fincher’s English-language adaptation of Steig Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (which simply has to be watched – because what else do you have to do between now and Christmas?), I decided it was finally time for me to bite the bullet and watch the Swedish version that had been sitting atop my Netflix queue for nearly a year.  The length (146 minutes) and language daunted me, especially as my main block of free time came at the time of day when I would be least capable of reading subtitles: right as I would be about to fall asleep.

But, as David Fincher’s teaser trailers always seem to do exceedingly well, I felt completely drawn into the world on the screen, and I suddenly felt an irrepressible urge to immerse myself into Larsson’s Millenium trilogy.  It was certainly nice to get a visualization of the story, yet just like countless adaptations before it, it doesn’t hold a candle to Larsson’s novel.  Watching anything related to the book is a great pleasure; however, the film doesn’t adequately capture all the nuances and the subtleties that separate “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” from your average cerebral thriller.

The stories of journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) investigating the 40-year-old unsolved case of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger and the various activities of cryptically mysterious hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) are presented in a very boiled-down manner that stays largely true to Larsson’s plotline.  Only a few minor details are altered, which will nag only the devoted and detailed readers (like myself).

Yet other than the two main characters, few other figures from Larsson’s novel get a decent screen treatment.  The Vanger family, such an interesting mix full of wild cards, is largely excised from the film, shorting those who didn’t read the book first.  Obviously, the large volume had to be cut, but the filmmakers made a big mistake taking the Vangers out.  While they may complicate matters, their presence makes us feel like Mikael – confounded and unsure of everyone’s true nature.

The movie does have one saving grace, and her name is Noomi Rapace.  She ventures to the dark side and really inhabits Salander, a multi-dimensional character that puzzles everyone if played right.  Flirting the border between mentally ill and justifiably angry with a world that has pushed her into a dark corner, Rapace’s Salander is a true marvel.  Even though we are never entirely sure of Salander’s intentions, we can see that Rapace is sure through just glancing into her eyes and seeing a clutter of emotions competing for prevalence.  Other than Rapace, the cast is dull and unexciting, especially Nyqvist.  Had someone put a cardboard standout in place of Nyqvist and had the caterer read his lines off-camera, we would have seen a performance of the same emotional caliber.

So while this “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a satisfying adaptation for now, I’m counting down the days until I can see what happens when a true artistic visionary like David Fincher gets his hands on the story.  If the trailer is indicative of the entire movie, I think we will be seeing Fincher having more fun than ever … and that’s reason to get excited for the feel-bad movie of Christmas.  B / 

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4 responses

4 06 2011
Sam Fragoso

I never saw any of these films – want to, just always something else to watch.

That trailer for Fincher’s picture was awful in my opinion – wrong song for what was happening.

Good review Marshall.

5 06 2011
Dan

I didn’t think much of this film. I wasn’t a fan of the book either. Therefore, I’m not really looking forward to Fincher’s version. Will it be any different? I will probably see it just to find out how Fincher’s take on the source material differs from Oplev’s.

5 06 2011
Marshall

I think both of you all are crazy – the book is awesome, as is the trailer. I also have a thing for David Fincher’s teaser trailers; Benjamin Button and The Social Network’s were both out of this world. Maybe the song was wrong, but it set the mood for me. This is going to be Fincher going back to “Se7en” type directing, which is definitely a reason to get excited. At least for me.

17 06 2011
Andrew

Like you, I think Fincher’s remake looks outstanding. Unlike you, the original really didn’t work for me at all, largely due to a failure to establish stakes or tension in the over-arching narrative. For all the film cares, Blomkvist decides to take the case because he has nothing better to do, which doesn’t really make for compelling drama, nor is Nyqvist a terribly compelling actor either. Girl made me an instant fan of Rapace, though, so there’s that, but the film struggled hard to barely hold my attention at all. Really, I think Fincher can do a lot more with this source material.

Damn well about time you started writing again, too, welcome back!

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