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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

A 2011 movie directed by David Fincher.

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Fincher comes forth in the thaw.

  • Jul 19, 2012
Rating:
+4
***1/2 out of ****

By now, we all know the story. Corrupt Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) - having just lost a libel case against the billionaire Hans-Erik Wennerstrom - accepts a job given to him by the affluent Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to re-open and solve a 40-year old case involving the old man's niece Harriet, who went missing all those years ago at an annual family gathering and as of now is still considered murdered, although there doesn't seem to be any proof aside from the fact that Henrik still receives art that only Harriet would make every year on her birthday, presumably from whoever her killer is. Mikael is chosen for the case after Henrik enlisted the brilliant Goth computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) to conduct and compile an extensive background check on him, his history, and his present life. For the first hour or so, their separate stories collide until finally they must meet. Miakel moves into the cottage on the Vanger estate and once Lisbeth arrives, she stays in his company. Together they will investigate Henrik's detestable family of thieves, Nazis, and fabricators.

The two come from completely different worlds, yet find themselves in a strangely familiar and similar position at this point in both of their lives. Lisbeth is a violent, skinny, chain-smoking, bisexual lone wolf with a dark past who must confront the disadvantages of being a member of the "fairer sex"; such as being subject to the abuse of stronger men. Before the story really gets going, we see her as she is trying to pay for a new computer; she runs into a crucial obstacle in the form of a lawyer who is assigned the new guardian of Salander who agrees to grant her access to her money but only if she does him certain favors usually of a sexual nature (it starts with a blowjob and then a brutal rape). Blomkvist, meanwhile, is living in particularly dark times as well; having to face the humiliations of the lost case and the stress of perhaps getting back his reputation by solving this new one. Whenever we see him, he usually isn't clean-shaven and looks rather grim; away from home, family, and everything else imaginable.

In case you didn't know, I'm describing the plot of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". There have been two versions and this plot description could apply to either one, but today I'm talking about the second adaptation directed by David Fincher (2010's "The Social Network"). The film is based on the first in a trilogy of books written by the late Stieg Larson, whose works were published post humorously. Since the books originate in Sweden and the story is also set in Sweden, the first adaptation was Swedish; and most people have fond memories of it. At the time, it introduced a new memorable character to the world of cinema; the tough-as-nails Salander, who is a perfect example of a capable and strong female character both on the pages of the novel and on the screen. Whereas the Swedes don't have access to all the fancy film technology of today; on paper, this is strictly a visual update to the story, since Fincher is a professional filmmaker and therefore can craft more complex shots and stage fancier angles.

But I'm here to tell you that Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is much more than just a better looking and stylistic version of the Swedish adaptation. I've been told that it's more faithful to Larson's novel than the previous film; perhaps in showing an entirely new side to Salander. She was portrayed by the wonderfully talented Noomi Ropace in the Swedish version; and she was as strong as ever. But Rooney Mara introduces a new layer of emotional vulnerability to the character which makes her a little more unpredictable. It's to the point where I can't decide who I like better of the two; I thought Ropace was fantastic in the role, but I also think that Mara is equally as surprising in the sense that she comes out of the blue - just like her character - and delivers a performance that could be properly compared to a sucker punch to the gut. Nevertheless, both actresses clearly went through a lot to play this character; and they each treat their portrayal as an individual performance, instead of Mara bouncing off of her predecessor and acting as a copycat.

No, that would not be fun. The film is kept interesting because Fincher finds ways to tell a story that's already been told cinematically - and not that long ago - in a number of different ways. First off, the visualization of events is way different; and that alone allows it to feel a bit fresh. Still kind of familiar, sure, but that was unavoidable. I'd rather not dwell on the obvious comparisons that could be made between the two versions, although I will say that it would be wise to give yourself some time and space between viewing both of them so that when you watch one after the next, whichever version follows the one watched first will at least be watchable. I took some time off from the Vanger estate and came back delighted; and I left just the same. Fincher's version of the story is just as gritty, engaging, and interesting as its Swedish counterpart; although it has a little more resonance in my opinion.

Yes, the film has some noticeable flaws. It's an all-American production filmed and set in Sweden, which is going to upset some. And it wasn't entirely necessary either; since I loved the Swedish GWTDT, although that might just be a bias (some found it slow and plodding). And finally, if you've seen the first adaptation or read the book(s), you know the solution to this whodunit mystery; but to me, that didn't take away from the enjoyment of watching it all unfold yet again. Fincher entertains the senses with rich suspense and absolutely beautiful cinematography. There's a great, moody vibe going on throughout the film; not just thanks to the cinematography, but also to the amazing score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. While I prefer the Swedish version to this one, Fincher's "Dragon Tattoo" has a more expansive world behind its production. The Blu-Ray comes packaged with about 4 hours of behind-the-scenes extras and I can't wait to spool through the bulk of them. I admire Fincher's decision not to conform to the usual tradition of remaking or filmmaking and deciding to instead break the conventions of the American thriller while at the same time not holding back on the graphic details of the most infamous scenes.

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More The Girl with the Dragon Tatto... reviews
review by . December 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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When I first heard of the American remake of the Swedish film released in 2009 based on the internationally acclaimed novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (original title “The Man Who Hate Women”), I have to admit I wasn’t too excited; that is until I learned that director David Fincher would be at its helm. Fincher is a director whose works I liked from “Se7en”, “Fight Club” and even “The Zodiac”. The film is more of a re-interpretation …
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review by . August 27, 2012
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Revenge is better when served cold.
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," was one of the most suspenseful novels that I've had the pleasure of reading.      I had also seen the original movie with subtitles and enjoyed that also.      With the 2011 film, directed by David Fincher, I have, once again, been greatly entertained.      The story is based on a Swedish journalist, Mikael Blomkvist suffering a legal defeat on a case where he is accused of slander.   …
review by . December 21, 2011
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A Very Dark, Brutal, and Gripping Film.
Following the very successful adaptation of Stieg Larssons millennium trilogy into three very successful Swedish language films, it came as no surprise when Hollywood announced that it would be making an English-language version of the series. Director David Fincher was announced to craft the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The new version follows very close to the original material with one fairly big exception which I will detail later in the review. Daniel Craig stars …
review by . December 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Watching the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I was actively engaged with its dual storylines, but I also found myself pondering which of the two was the more important. Now that David Fincher has made an English-language remake, I find myself pondering what went wrong. Here is a mystery thriller so cold, so distant, and so lacking in energy that it feels neither mysterious nor thrilling. It follows the plot of the original …
review by . December 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Dragon Tattoo Take 2
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Written by Steve Zaillian Directed by David Fincher Starring Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard   Armansky: I’m concerned you won’t like her. She’s different. Frode: In what way? Armansky: In every way.   I always say that film criticism is an inherently subjective practice and reviewing David Fincher’s remake of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is the perfect example to prove this. It has …
review by . January 08, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
If there were an award for most unsettling film of 2011 or best use of black eye-liner, David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be a shoe-in. That’s not to say it isn’t a good movie, in fact it’s brilliant. It’s gorgeously shot, beautifully paced, has a once-in-a-lifetime performance by Rooney Mara and strings you along for one of the best mysteries I’ve ever tagged along for. That being said, it’s still one of the darkest, most mature films …
review by . January 03, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
      Fincher's dark and mute direction in his retake of Stieg Larssen's trilogy-novel was somehow expected but I never thought it will turn out to be so haunting and fresh. Spectacular technical detail, from beginning to the very end. A charismatic and harsh sample of great journalism, character study, and thrilling evolution. A variety of dramatic colors and a cold and poisonous atmosphere that made this movie memorable.      The Girl With the Dragon …
review by . January 02, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
After viewing the fairly well-produced and well-adapted "Girl" trilogy of films (based on the Millennium novels by the late Stieg Larrson) by director Niels Arden Oplev, the question, "Why see yet another version of this same story?" (even if it is done in English, Hollywood style) may just cross one's mind especially in a diminished economy where frugality renders duplication superfluous. However close to the perfection of the author's vision Noomi Rapace's performance might have been, Rooney Mara's …
review by . December 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
It has been tough to escape the Millennium trilogy for the past three years. Author Stieg Larsson left his trilogy unpublished, it wasn’t until after his death that the books hit the shelves and became a worldwide phenomenon. It then became a movie made in Sweden which did not shine away from the darker parts of the story with European audiences unafraid to deal with such issues. When trying to make an American version of the film the studios called on none other than David Fincher who previously …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Wiki

A murder mystery rife with suspense, scandal, sexual abuse, and some supremely intriguing characters,The Girl with the Dragon Tattoois an excellently crafted film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's equally fascinating book of the same name. Larsson's book was also the basis of a 2009 Swedish film (also with the same title), and while the Swedish film was good, this American version is far superior, thanks to fantastic cinematography and livelier pacing that results in a constant, electric tension that drives every second of the movie. The breathtaking footage of a snowy, remote island in Sweden thoroughly exudes bitter cold, and the attention to the smallest details, like the whistling of the wind through a door left ajar, makes the hairs on the back of viewers' necks absolutely prickle. Like the book, the film is long (158 minutes), there's an abundance of dialogue that is never awkward and always efficient, and there are plenty of false endings. The suspense and the intricacy of the mystery are stellar, and even viewers who know the story well will find themselves sucked into the riddle being investigated by journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). The casting is great, as are the performances of all the key actors, but by far the best thing about this film is Rooney Mara, who is utterly believable as the incredibly strong, extremely disturbed Lisbeth Salander, Blomkvist's unlikely assistant. Mara's performance is chillingly real and completely ...
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Details

Director: David Fincher
Release Date: December 20, 2011
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: Mar. 20, 2012
Runtime: 158 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
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