“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is the first film in Columbia Pictures’ three-picture adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s literary blockbuster “The Millennium Trilogy.” Directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, the film is based on the first novel in the trilogy, which altogether have sold 50 million copies in 46 countries and become a worldwide phenomenon.
Anytime that you take on a movie that is based on a novel you have built in challenges that are difficult to ignore. When you add to that the fact that the story has already been made into a movie before, then the complications become even more overwhelming. This is the atmosphere and inheritance that director extraordinaire David Fincher takes on and for the most part, he does it well. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a great visual movie with interesting characters and solid plot. If you have seen the Swedish version of the movie, however, you constantly find yourself comparing them to one another, and both to the novel the movies were based upon.
David Fincher wins the award hands down for having the best visuals, but the Swedish version to me is much more primitive and engaging. That said, the movie is still outstanding.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is about a journalist that finds himself in a pot of litigiousness hot water when he is hired by a rich older man to find his niece. Daniel Craig plays the journalist to a tee, and Christopher Plummer is brilliant as usual as the older man. The real star of this movie, however, is the beautiful Rooney Mara. Mara plays a researcher (hacker) that has a horrible hidden past. She hooks up with Daniel Craig to help him search for the niece that has been missing for forty years. It becomes clear that they are searching instead for her murderer.
Like SE7EN, Fight Club and The Social Network before it, Girl shows itself to be a visual masterpiece under the watchful lens of Fincher. Set in the incredible beauty of Sweden, Fincher takes a story and turns it into eye candy like no other director today. Though the movie has a few flaws, they are barely visible behind the beauty of the rolling pictures.
Mara’s character, Lisbeth Salander, is what makes the movie go from the moment she steps into our lives. Salander has her life lain bare before the lens and it deepens her character in a way that is hard to describe. Many people question the need to show where her deep wounds came from in such graphic detail, but it is far more tame than the Swedish version of the same name. That movie borderlines on gratuitous porn in some eyes. The American version is brutal, in your face and primitive, but it is necessary to reveal her horrific pain. Salander does not revel in it, and her strength and journey through the movie is the primary highlight in my view.
If I had to register a complaint about this movie, it is that it sometimes gets lost in the details. It plays like a Murder She Wrote murder mystery without the innocence of prime time television censorship. As such, the details of the research, forensics and computer work sometimes drag a bit. Still, the twists and turns of the movie make it bump back up to speed without fail, so the slow downs are not overly noticeable.
The biggest problem for me was the automatic comparison chart that ran through my mind as I watched the film. I would much have preferred to have seen Fincher’s version first. I would have enjoyed it a great deal more if I had no knowledge of what was coming next. The plot was revealed before I ever sat down, and that is always a bummer at the theater. Regardless, I enjoyed it much more than I anticipated if that gives you an idea of how good this is.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo makes for outstanding entertainment but be warned…it is unflinching in it’s portrayal of the suffering the characters have been through. Squeamish folks will not like this movie one bit. Consider yourself warned. Otherwise, this is a great escape to a world that fortunately few of us will ever see.