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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Having seen the original Swedish film from 2009 twice, as well as the two sequels, and having read all three books, I expected David Fincher's American remake to verge on the superfluous.  I must confess, however, that he has made a thoroughly enjoyable film.  I have liked but not gone overboard on his previous films, with the possible exception of "Benjamin Button" in 2008, but he has brought a professional gloss to this remake which was somehow lacking in the Swedish original.  The first film was very involving and completely entertaining, but as I said at the time not exactly a particularly fine example of moviemaking -- rather more like a long and definitely superior television movie.  What Fincher has accomplished is to bring his cinematic skills to the tale's exposition, as well as providing a product for those cinema-goers who either don't like reading or who definitely don't like reading subtitles.

His version often benefits from having more recognizable actors in the main cast.  Frankly, while he does a perfectly adequate job, Daniel Craig -- despite his James Bond popularity -- brings nothing new to the lead role of Blomkvist the disgraced journalist hired to solve the Vanger family mystery.  Rooney Mara, on the other hand, gives a daring spin to Noomi Rapace's excellent punk hacker Lisbeth Salander -- not that she was widely known before this role -- and it should be a career-boosting performance.  It is with the major supporting roles that familiarity helps, particularly with Stellan Skarsgard's snarling villain, as well as starry turns from Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, and Joely Richardson.  Interestingly enough Fincher chose to film the flick in its original Swedish setting, rather than moving the action Stateside, and the bulk of the supporting cast are indeed Swedish, although there is little consistency amongst the large cast as to who would and who would not speak the dialogue accented.

Fincher and his screenwriter Steven Zaillian have taken certain liberties with the original text, which need not upset the purists in the audience.  In particular they have ignored the fact that Blomkvist is awaiting a prison sentence for libel.  Secondly they have included some add-nothing scenes with the daughter from his dissolved marriage -- apparently as a result of discovering that one of the actresses on set was the real daughter of the original lead Michael Nyqvist.  Most importantly they have changed the ending of the mystery, although surprisingly this does not seem to detract in any way.  They could also be accused of having glammed up the locations -- the Millennium magazine offices in particular are a heck of a lot swisher than the rather basic original setting.  They have also included some rather more explicit sexual scenes than are perhaps needed, but together with the flashy cutting between scenes of the ongoing action, these keep the viewer riveted to the exposition. The only complete misfire was the strange attempt to link the serial killer's victims to anti-Semitism, since not only Jewish females have biblical-sounding names.

I understand that the movie has been doing patchy business in the States and may not be considered sufficiently successful to warrant the two sequels.  In a way this is a shame, since Fincher has done a commendable job at liberating the story from its arthouse audience.  Part of the problem seems to be that the movie was released during the run-up to Christmas, where less black and more family-friendly films are the popular norm.  It is also possibly too long for holiday viewing and suffers from an absence of big marquee names to draw in the punters.  A different release date might have found the wider audience that this movie definitely deserves.
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