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Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The (2011)
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by Jay Seaver

"A good mystery smothered."
3 stars

Let's read significance into something tiny; after all, what else are you supposed to do when trying to review the second adaptation of the same novel to hit theaters in a two-year period? So, let's ponder that, while the Swedish film used the source novel's original title, "Men Who Hate Women", this one was going to use the name of the English translation, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" from the start, and that does (for better or worse) indicate a shift in the focus.

As before, we start not with the title character, but with Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a Stockholm investigative reporter who has just been convicted of libel. The fine he will pay empties his life savings and he steps down as publisher of the magazine Millennium, but he's offered another opportunity: Octogenarian billionaire Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) would like him to find out who killed his niece Harriet in 1966; the evidence suggests that it must have been some member of his family, a greedy and disreputable bunch even if you ignored the Nazi past of brother Frode (Steven Berkoff). Eventually, he gets a lead, and hires some help: Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a "researcher" for the security company that vetted Mikael for Henrik, an expert hacker for all that she's a troubled young woman.

Let's get back to that title thing again. It's a silly thing, but Men Who Hate Women puts the focus on the crime while The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is about the people solving the crime. To a great extent, this is a distinction without a difference; the very best murder mysteries and crime thrillers, director David Fincher's Seven and Zodiac among them, are about both at once. Still, it's a shift in focus - both from the Swedish movie directed by Niels Arden Oplev and within this one - that hurts the film a bit. The middle section, where Blomkvist and Salander are investigating the disappearance of Harriet Salander and what turn out to be a slew of related crimes, is a snappy mystery story where we learn about our sleuths by how they attack their job and interact with each other. That kind of storytelling is, in a way, great slight of hand - the audience thinks it's getting obligatory plot mechanics but the cast and crew is doing their best work, getting characterization and mood across without being showy about it.

When they don't have that procedural skeleton to guide them, Fincher, screenwriter Steven Zallian, and company do tend to get showy, and it doesn't quite work. What seems like more time than is necessary is spent on establishing Blomkvist and Salander, with Fincher going for flashy camerawork and editing to keep the audience from getting distracted before the good stuff, including (once the investigation starts in earnest, such tricks fall by the wayside). At the other end, the film stumbles as it reaches its finish, drawing out the climactic moments until their impact is softened, then continuing on well past the time when it could have sent the audience to the doors still excited and thrilled. And then it ends on what seems like exactly the wrong note for Lisbeth.

Well, maybe it's closer to right for this Lisbeth; Rooney Mara's take on the character is naturally different than Noomi Rapace's, but it's not a bad one: Even without the memorably horrific scenes between Mara and Yorick van Wageningen toward the start, we'd get that Lisbeth is damaged and uncertain about how to show affection; even the moments when Lisbeth is letting some wrath loose feel cautious. Unfortunately, some of this is covered up by the accent Mara gives the character (it's interesting that the Swedish actors like Stellan Skarsgard use a much more neutral accent, likely figuring that speaking English in an accent poorly suited to it doesn't convey the character's tone properly). Daniel Craig is fine, doing a decent job of downplaying just how Mary Sue-ish a character Blomkvist can be but making him a bit bland in the process. There's a nice supporting cast, with Christopher Plummer stealing his scenes easily and van Wageningen making Salander's "caretaker" as repugnant as he should be.

While some of what Fincher and company do is overly bombastic - there's a lot of stuff like the James Bond-esque title sequence that walks a really fine line between striking and overdone - there's no hiding that the craft is excellent. The movie looks great, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross contribute a nifty score, and the cast is solid from top to bottom. The thing is that this movie is at heart a murder mystery, and those often work best when the teller either gets out of the way or gives the appearance of doing so, and there are many moments when Fincher and company clearly want to be noticed.

Of course, there is a more straightforward adaptation available, for those that don't mind subtitles. Having seen it (and its sequels) in 2010, I may be judging this version too harshly; it cannot surprise me as it might wish to do. Still, it's not just about the original, foreign version being better; the American version has a definite split personality where only part of the film really works.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=21277&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/09/12 00:23:46
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User Comments

8/25/18 Joely Richards Rooney Mara was great. Her anal-rape scene inspired me to try anal sex with my college bf. 5 stars
9/12/17 morris campbell good but grim 4 stars
5/27/13 Luisa slow paced but deliciously graphic and entertaining 3 stars
9/03/12 Courtney Amazing cinematography and soundtrack. Another masterfully done movie by Fincher. 5 stars
4/20/12 mr.mike Well done , Fincher is an A-1 director. 4 stars
4/06/12 The Taitor Very good acting, plenty of suspense, drama, and surprises 4 stars
3/25/12 Fazon Sheriff Technically astute, competently structured, well acted and very engaging 4 stars
3/23/12 Les S. Disturbingly interesting but not as well crafted as the book itself. 3 stars
3/19/12 Millie Maelstrom Lisbeth Salander is hardly any more heroic than Hannibal Lecter and WAY less fascinating. 1 stars
2/19/12 Girl with the draggin' Snafu Proof + that neither the Christianization nor Gothicization of Scandinavia were good things 1 stars
2/14/12 jc rooney mara is indeed the lisbeth salander that i've imagined. the film! a must-see movie! 4 stars
2/06/12 KingNeutron Very hard to follow if you havent read the book- 3rd star is for Rooney's performance 3 stars
1/28/12 M Predictable, without the disturbinmg scenes this would be a bore 2 stars
1/24/12 Devin Sabas the stars of this movie are fincher and the score. i liked it 4 stars
1/12/12 Donald Hallett this movie was at no point entertaining , not worth the time it took to watch 1 stars
1/01/12 Smitty Noomi Repace made Rooney Mara look like Bambi in comparison. See the original. 3 stars
12/25/11 cooler watch the original instead 1 stars
12/23/11 Rob Riveting ! 5 stars
12/22/11 JW Great visual storytelling but, like the 2009 film, the problem seems to be the book itself! 3 stars
12/22/11 Bob Dog Skip the US remake and watch the 2009 original. 2 stars
12/20/11 Stacie Clark disturbing, but excellent 5 stars
12/20/11 Andy This is just as good as the Swedish version. A well make film 5 stars
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  21-Dec-2011 (R)
  DVD: 20-Mar-2012

  26-Dec-2011 (18)

  21-Dec-2011 (MA)
  DVD: 20-Mar-2012

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