US Release Date: 12-20-2011
Directed by: David Fincher
- Daniel Craig, as
- Mikael Blomkvist
- Rooney Mara, as
- Lisbeth Salander
- Christopher Plummer, as
- Henrik Vanger
- Stellan Skarsgard, as
- Martin Vanger
- Steven Berkoff, as
- Robin Wright, as
- Erika Berger
- Joely Richardson, as
- Anita Vanger
- Geraldine James, as
- Goran Visnjic, as
- Donald Sumpter, as
- Detective Morell
- Ulf Friberg, as
- Tony Way, as
- Per Myrberg, as
- Josefin Asplund, as
- Eva Fritjofson, as
- Moa Garpendal, as
- Julian Sands as
- Young Henrik
Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Having seen the original Swedish film and read the book, I was curious how I would react to this Hollywood version. Not only did it have the excellent earlier version to compete with, but I also, of course, knew the entire plot and mystery. It's a testament to the story, cast and director David Fincher that even with that combination, I still enjoyed this movie very much and despite knowing what was coming, still found myself on the edge of my seat for good portions of it.
The plot is that of a mystery thriller. Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist, is invited by the 82 year old patriarch of the rich and powerful Vanger family to investigate a 40 year old mystery. Henrik wants Mikael to try and discover what happened to Henrik's niece, Harriet, who disappeared in the 1960s from the family estate. Henrik has long suspected she was killed by one his many relatives who were gathered together on the last day she was seen alive. And given that so many of the Vanger's were well known Nazis or, at the very least, Nazi sympathizers, with all the evil that implies, coupled with the fact that they are a rich and ruthless clan, Henrik seems to have plenty of reason to suspect foul play, especially because it was well known that the girl was Henrik's favorite. Despite his suspicions, nothing was ever learned about her disappearance despite Henrik's money and the police's exhaustive investigations. It is only because Henrik senses that he won't be long for this world that he decides to have one more go at learning the truth.
As Eric said in his review of the original, a major difference between Hollywood and foreign films is that the actors in foreign films are often rougher and more human looking. Neither Noomi Rapace (currently to be seen in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows) or Michael Nyqvist (currently to be seen in Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol) who starred in the original version are all that attractive by Hollywood standards. For this version we have Daniel Craig - dressing very stylishly - and Rooney Mara who, while still buried under leather and piercings, is still more carefully coifed than Noomi. They both do excellent work, but there's no denying that they're more polished than their original counterparts.
Despite knowing the solution to the mystery, I was still drawn in once again to the world of the Vangers and their Nazi past. Even knowing the outcome I still followed Mikael and Lisabeth's progress with interest. For a nearly three hour movie, it does a great job of maintaining the suspense for almost its entire length.
If there's a weakness to this movie it's probably in that it tries to tell too much of the book's story instead of focusing on the mystery. Lisabeth Salandar, the title girl with the tattoo, is a great character, but strictly in regards to the story of the Vangers, we don't need to see quite so much of her background at the beginning of the film. And there's an epilogue involving her character that extends the movie by ten minutes after the Vanger mystery has been resolved. There are really three points where the movie could have ended. Let me be clear that those portions of the film are still well done, but they are really only included because they're in the book.
As you'd expect, the one area where this version far outshines the original is in the production values. From start to finish, it just looks good. It's not always the most pleasant world to visit, but you won't be able to stop yourself from being drawn into it.
In my original review I said that Hollywood would never be able top the Swedish version. I still stand by that statement, but they do make it a tough call. By not shying away from the story's darker and more graphic aspects and with some great casting and a fine job of directing by David Fincher, Hollywood managed to not only not screw this one up, but actually made it one of the best movies of the year.
Daniel Craig and Robin Wright looking more like siblings than lovers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
The first thing to note about this film is that it is long, and pointlessly so. Scott mentioned this sin but also absolved it of dragging on. I am not so forgiving. It takes way too long for Mikael and Lisbeth to get together. Did Robin Wright need so much screen time? All we need to know about her is summed up by Lisbeth stating, "He's had a long standing sexual relationship with his co-editor of the magazine. Sometimes he performs cunnilingus on her. Not often enough in my opinion." I also agree with Scott that it seems to end several times.
Having also seen the original film there was little of the mystery of the missing girl left to discover. I doubt if I re-watched the original film that I would still give it four stars. A mystery loses it's punch once the mystery is solved.
What these stories do have though, is the intriguing characters of Mikael and Lisbeth. They are quite the opposites on the surface. He is an educated middle aged divorced father. Lisbeth is a social pariah. He is a leader at his magazine while she keeps to herself and talks as little as possible to anyone.
However, they also share many good qualities. First and foremost is that both are champions for the truth. He writes articles for his magazine that are well researched and documented. Lisbeth likewise works with the truth doing background checks. Both have had their share of life's obstacles to get over. Lisbeth has a past of severe abuse. Mikael has been through a divorce and as the film starts he is found guilty of libel. Their greatest shared quality is that both are brave as hell. Both put themselves into situations most people would run from.
In that is the strength and weakness of this film. It takes far too long for them to hook up. Once they do though, the film finds a rare and intriguing chemistry. On the surface these two people seem to have no business with each other but are in fact kindred spirits that compliment and challenge each other.
Another weakness of the plot and the original trilogy is that it includes countless suspects. Throughout these stories we have people in politics, high finance and foreign mobsters all with motives to kill Lisbeth and Mikael. Because of that, the moment that stands out best for me in this version was when Daniel Craig says to Christopher Plummer that he is having a hard time keeping up with who is who. I am so glad to find out that I was not the only confused one.
An underused Christopher Plummer in the mediocre remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
This English language version is inferior to the original in every way, including the performances, the script, the mystery, and the pacing of this overlong, overrated movie. It surpasses the original only in its desire to wallow in its own luridness.
I agree with Eric that the part of Erika Berger (Robin Wright) has been needlessly expanded from the original and, it seems to me that Henrik Vanger’s part (Christopher Plummer) has been reduced and he has been made less likable. His big reunion later in the story is missing the emotional punch the original had.
The character of Lisbeth Salander is less vulnerable here. For example, compare the two scenes near the beginning where she is accosted in the subway. In the original she takes a beating while getting in a few licks of her own in a highly realistic street brawl. Here she is much more superhero-like, completely getting the best of her attacker before making a stylish getaway. Rooney Mara is decent in the part but it still belongs to Noomi Rapace.
Daniel Craig doesn’t fare nearly as well. He is dull and lacks the emotional subtext Michael Nyqvist brought to the character. His limitations as an actor are exposed in the subtler moments. I never bought his excitement as he and Lisbeth uncover clue after clue.
I realize it isn’t fair to watch and judge a remake so soon after the original. But since Hollywood decided to cash in on this literary juggernaut they must be prepared for the consequences. The original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a solidly entertaining mystery/thriller with a unique heroine. This remake is tepid at best.
Photos © Copyright Columbia Pictures (2011)