"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2011)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Directed by: David Fincher
Running time: 158 minutes

One thing that is overlooked by us film watchers is the opening credits sequence. While many filmmakers choose to display the introductory credits while an early event of the film is taking place, others choose to have a sequence that is completely dedicated to establishing the title of the film, who’s in it and who was part of the behind-the-scenes team. I believe that we all have stopped acknowledging the purpose of the latter scenario, and that is to make us (the audience) really pumped to see the rest of the movie. To really fire us up in anticipation of the next two hours. Now, the reason I bring this up is because The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has the best opening credits sequence I have ever seen! Using what is essentially an awesome music video, the sequence fired up my interest and my initial skepticism for the film was washed away. I entered the cinema with a sense of cautious optimism, but once the opening credits kicked in I was suddenly overcome with sheer awe as to the film I was about to see. I suddenly remembered: this is a David Fincher movie, the man who directed Fight Club, and this is going to rock. Not only did I remember this, but I was so impressed with the contents of the opening credits sequence. It consisted of a black oil that was constantly morphing into shapes of wasps and two people embracing and iPod cords and a woman being viciously tied up; and all of this set to an awesome remix of “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin, a remix that I prefer to the original (that’s right music fans, come get me!). It was so visually intriguing, and so atmospheric to the mood of the film that I enjoyed it immensely. There never needs to be another music video ever again, it was that awesome!


As I’ve blatantly stated, Now Showing this week is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher. This is a remake of the Swedish film of the same name released back in 2009, which in turn was based upon a novel written by the late Stieg Larsson. Recently shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), in an effort to escape said recent shaming, has been hired by Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance/murder of his favourite niece Harriot Vanger that occurred some forty years ago; a crime Henrik is convinced was committed by a member of his large family. Blomkvist moves to the Vanger family island a short train ride away from Stolkholm in order to meet and investigate the entire remaining Vanger family and is joined later by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a very disturbed Gothic computer hacker.


First off: wow. Just wow. The feeling I got when I watched that opening credits sequence was entirely justified as David Fincher has made an excellent movie here. I was always a huge fan of those “who-done-it?” mystery shows and this film ticks all the right boxes. The isolated setting of the island combined with the numerous suspects, all of whom would have had motivation to commit the crime, is very reminiscent of stories such as The Hound of the Baskervilles (a Sherlock Holmes mystery for those playing at home). And while there are some cliches along the way, the actual final twist to the mystery was so surprising even though I had seen the original Swedish version! My mind seemed to have blotted out most of the Swedish film for some reason, but I’m glad it did as it allowed me to really engage with this remake. I think that this story is so interesting and rich  filled with some interesting characters; the source material is excellent.


The only complaint I would have in its translation to film is that the opening section of the film has a massive case of information overload. The film opens with Blomkvist leaving court after being sued for using false information in an article against a wealthy business man, and is then contacted by Henrik Vanger to meet him on an island not far out of Stockholm. Meanwhile we are introduced to Lisbeth (who’s story runs parallel to Blomkvists for half the movie!) who is dealing with her own welfare problems. Back to Blomkvist, we are getting a detailed rundown of the entire Vanger family and it is incredibly difficult to keep up! But the end of it, I was very lost and I only recovered thanks to the individual meetings between Blomkvist and the Vanger family members. I just feel the move was jamming too much down out throats to begin with but once its finished the initial bombardment, the movie calms down and really lets us sink our teeth into the characters. I suppose I could argue that end of the film didn’t translate to film very well either. Once the “who-done-it” is resolved, then the film goes on to resolving events from Blomkvist’s introduction. Maybe all that information is relevant to later films, but I just feel that in a “who-done-it” story, once you know who did it, the story ends! Maybe a brief re-cooperation but then it finishes, not go on to cover more details about a part of the story that we never really cared about. But as I said, maybe it will be relevant in later sequels, I’ve been wrong before but it just felt very long winded.


Sadly, the film suffers from an identity crisis as it cannot decide where it’s characters are from. Fincher really screwed the pooch on this front. There is no consistency in the film as to whether we are in Sweden and people are speaking English, or if we are in Sweden and the magic of film has translated everything into English. Daniel Craig sports his natural British accent whilst Rooney Mara uses a fantastic Swedish accent while speaking in English; both characters are meant to be Swedish. All the cafes and their menus etc. are written in Swedish, but Lisbeth and Blomkvist are constantly Googling in English! You can’t have both people! Either the film should be in Swedish (as has been done) and subtitled OR you have everything in English including dialogue (you can even use accents, but only if your actors can pull it off) and have the film state that it is set in Sweden. The film Valkyrie back in 2009 pulled the latter off rather well and all films should have been taking notes! But if a bit of excess story and some cafe menus being written in Swedish are all I have to complain about, then this is hardly a bad film.


I will conclude with one final commendation to this film: Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. She was fantastic. The way she held herself in the film was awe inspiring, with the look of detachment in her face along with an insane fire burning in her eyes when she is ever crossed. Couple that with looking somehow at home in her piercings and Gothic getup, yet still somehow being believably attractive whenever her character was obviously meant to be, and you have one amazing performance. The girl deserves some sort of award, I’m just saying. And I must commend her, actor to actor, for how far she was willing to go in this film for her character. Lisbeth goes through some terrible things in this film, and they are shown in grisly detail. She is a very brave woman for performing how she did, and I congratulate her.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is definitely worth a watch. It is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it is an excellent piece of cinema from a magnificent film auteur. And I recommend seeing it in Gold Class if you can, as I ordered a very nice glass of scotch whiskey prior to the screening and asked for it to brought to me about halfway through the movie. Without giving too much away, that glass arrived exactly after a particularly disturbing moment and I sure needed that stiff drink! See you next time!


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