FILM: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review (***1/2)

Posted: January 4, 2012 in Film, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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The problem with remakes of books and of films is they often prove themselves unnecessary, superfluous to the process of understanding and digesting the source material. If anything, remakes often muddle and disrespect the original concepts and motivations. On a related note, the problem with reviewing remakes of books and of films is we often compare them like one would compare a copy of the Mona Lisa. Criticisms are often not given based on the merit of the film, but on its accuracy to the plot points of the original. This sort of critique is more than unfair; it encourages mindless rehashes and thwarts original thinking. Fortunately for Stieg Larsson (and for the viewer), David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not bogged down by the details of the best-selling thriller, but instead, it plays slave to the novel ideas behind it.

For those unfamiliar to the narrative, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo follows disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and unorthodox investigator/hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who team up to solve a mystery surrounding a serial killer of women. From a superficial popcorn moviegoer point of view, Dragon Tattoo is just as thrilling and methodical as the book. From the opening credits (where USB cords look sexy and threatening), the tone of the film is never off-centered. Using another addictive score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross as his backdrop, Fincher paces the film to perfection, allowing the music to carry Lisbeth through the streets of Sweden and Mikael through the rickety rooms of his cottage till we reach its high-powered conclusion. The result is a slick film that makes you think and cringe through the entire process, whether you know the ending or not.

Fincher’s greatest achievement, however, is not for his direct, visual adaptation from page to screen. Niels Arden Opley already did that with his Swedish version two years prior. And some have already (rightfully or not) argued that it was a truer, more satisfying film in respect to the storylines and details of the book. But Fincher knew this wasn’t only about depicting the costumes and the beatings and the revelations we imagined in our head. Ultimately, Fincher created a film that spoke from the intent of Larsson when he first wrote it. Dragon Tattoo is fundamentally about the power of women, personified in Lisbeth. Unlike any other film in recent memory, Lisbeth is another type of female superhero. She doesn’t have flowing hair that accompany pouty lips or a busty chest. She does not have the charm of your upper-class socialite or the sense of humor that makes you feel comfortable around her. She is who she is — a heroine confident in her identity, professionally and sexually. (Hell, Lisbeth even screws AND saves James Bond). It’s a character that till now, no author and director have pushed so blatantly into the mainstream. This is a recapture of the feminine soul, a release of a woman’s power. That was the original purpose of Larsson’s Millenium trilogy. And in this remake, Fincher makes sense of it all and gets it right.

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