The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer
Directed by David Fincher (The Social Network)
Rated R for brutal violence including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language
Based on the best-selling novel by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, Girl tells the story of a Swedish magazine journalist (Craig) who goes on the search for a woman who has been missing for forty years. When his search becomes overly tedious, he acquires the help of a young but brilliant computer hacker with a huge set of personal issues (Mara). Together they find themselves on the verge of not only finding their missing woman, but uncovering a hidden secret that has plagued a northern Swedish town for decades.
Before I dive into the obvious, I will admit that this new version of the huge best-seller is pretty darn good. It is a dark and frightening film that is a testament to what a film can be when you put a lot of money behind great source material and then hire the best director, writer and actors to build it.
And now the elephant in the room: why did we need the film to begin with? In 2009 the first of the trilogy was released with another great director, writer and stellar cast. Sure it was in Swedish, and you had to read subtitles, but that didn’t seem to matter since the film ended up being a huge international success both financially and critically. Also, the lead actors both ended up as the stars of two other big competing holiday films (Michael Nyqvist in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Noomi Rapace in the new Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows). The film won many awards and made many critics’ top ten lists that year.
And yet two years later the Americans decide they can best it. Well of course they can, but what’s the point? If the film wasn’t released in the US or had little recognition that would be one thing, but that simply isn’t the case. Did Fincher do a better job? Yes, but not that much better. Is Steven Zaillian’s script better written? Of course but both scripts relied heavily on the source material by Stieg Larsson. Are the actors better? Not hardly. They are better looking, that’s for sure, but both casts were fantastic. It’s one of those situations where you feel that instead of the filmmakers asking themselves if they could make a better movie, they needed to ask themselves if they should.
Also, I think Columbia Pictures has been confused about this project for a while. They’ve done a poor job marketing it, partly because I don’t think they have a clue how to sell it to American audiences. They didn’t allow most critics groups to see the film before voting deadlines, which means they are only banking on possible Oscar nominations with no buzz leading up to it. And then you have the fact that they are releasing the film on an extremely crowded Christmas weekend which is a horrible date for a movie of this nature. Most Americans will go see a movie with their families over the holidays and I seriously doubt that audiences will choose a film about sexual violence over typical holiday fare like action and comedy.
I’m sure many of you though haven’t seen the original and are asking yourselves if it is worth a go. At that point the answer is yes. This is a very good film, but be prepared for a disturbing drama. The original title of the book is “Men Who Hate Women.” Of course “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” has a nicer ring to it, but the actual Swedish title is a better descriptor. Sexual violence is not an easy subject matter to explore and that’s the theme of the entire film. A-