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THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO2011

"The fear of offending is stronger than the fear of pain."
-- Martin Vanger
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a 2011 film directed by David Fincher that serves as a remake of the 2010 Swedish film Män som hatar kvinnor, which in turn was an adaptation of the late Stieg Larsson's 2005 novel of the same name. After he is sued for allegedly offering incorrect information about a high-level businessman, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is offered the chance to retaliate if he can aid aging patriarch Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) in discovering the details surrounding his niece's disappearance nearly forty years earlier. Mikael has luck in the early stages of his investigation, but as time goes by and fewer and fewer clues surface, he enlists the help of a young hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who happens to be the person who exposed the miscues that led to his being sued. As the two dig deeper into the secrets that lie within the Vanger family history, they find a very convoluted plot that slowly begins to unfold, leading them to a strange and dangerous ending.

When I first heard about the proposed remake of the Swedish adaptations of Larsson's Millennium trilogy, I have to say I was a tad bit worried for a few reasons. First, I wondered whether initiating a remake so quickly after the success of the Swedish films was a good idea. The first of those films was released in Sweden in 2009 and hit the United States in 2010, so U.S. audiences only had to wait another year for an English-language version. While some quick remakes have found success (i.e., 2010's Let Me In, which was a remake of the 2008 Swedish Låt den rätte komma in, or Let the Right One In), I was still a little concerned about the prospects for this particular franchise. Secondly, because of the way the storyline is crafted, I could only think of a few possible directors that could have handled the remake. When it was announced that David Fincher would be taking the helm, some of my worries were silenced, but I still held a little bit of doubt. Ultimately, there wasn't any way I was going to be able to watch this film without comparing it to its Swedish predecessor, so I hope you'll forgive me if this turns into more of a compare-and-contrast piece than a straight-forward review.

There isn't much to say in terms of the film's screenplay that I didn't already say in my review of the Swedish version, which you can read here. I found Steven Zaillian's script to be tightly-written and intriguing, but I did have a few issues that probably serve as nitpicking more than anything else. One of my biggest issues was the fact that, while the film takes place in Sweden, every character happens to speak in English. Normally this wouldn't be much of an issue, but the fact that the filmmakers chose to leave all of the visually-written objects - including signs, posters and car decals - in Swedish threw me a little off. While I'm hearing English being spoken, I'm seeing words in Swedish, and it just took me a little out of the movie. That's not necessarily a good thing for any film, much less one that's throwing you so much information on a consistent basis that you need to be able to keep up.

We are getting a rather good ensemble cast, although I'm not sure it quite measures up to the one from the film it's following. Mara and Craig are fine as our leads, and Mara is getting quite a bit of praise for her performance, but I personally didn't think she came close to being as effective as Noomi Rapace was in her role. I was pleasantly surprised to see Christopher Plummer's turn in this one, even if his role didn't consist of much screen-time. Also be on the lookout for fine performances from the likes of Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård and Joely Richardson, who help fill out the cast list nicely.

At the end of the day, I thought that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did enough to keep me engaged, but I couldn't help but think that it just wasn't quite as good as the original 2010 film. Although it hasn't garnered much success at the box office, both of the series' sequels have received the green-light for production, so be on the watch for Mara and Craig to team up twice more in the next few years. Still, if you are looking to watch this film, I honestly think you should at least give the Swedish adaptation a chance. This one is good, but it's just a half-step behind its predecessor.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: B+
1.5 Thumbs Up