Let’s talk about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor). I decided to see it, on a lark, the other night and found myself uniquely positioned to experience what I’ve been told is an modern literary-classic-turn-film-turned-American-adaptation. Let me first point out that my foreknowledge of this film was nonexistent. I’ve never seen the original nor read the source material. I hadn’t seen any of the trailers or been told the synopsis. I actually had no intention of seeing it until someone invited to pay for my ticket to go. So I went in with a clean slate.
And I have to say that I’m thoroughly impressed. Granted, I had no idea what I was in for when I entered the theatre and all of my suppositions were based on the posters of the Swedish films with the angsty girl. When I first heard about the movie some months ago, my thought process was something like this:
So there’s a girl. And she’s got a dragon tattoo. Does the tattoo come alive or maybe give her powers? Maybe that’s why she wears the mohawk in all of the posters… because she’s got a dragon tattoo curse?
That was seriously my thought process heading in and it turns out the truth is weirder than fiction. Stieg Larsson, author of the books, has been dead since 2004. Apparently, if Wikipedia can be trusted, Larson’s three novels were posthumously printed. As if that’s not crazy enough, the author was driven by the guilt of witnessing a gang-rape when he was fifteen. The victim, Lisbeth, is who the main character is named after. Wow.
Interestingly enough, the dragon tattoo was not often featured in the film. I don’t know if it had some literary significance that was lost in translation or if it was more making a statement on the title character, Lisbeth. My money is on the latter. I can’t speak for Swedish social norms, but people make assumptions about a girl with any kind of tattoo. Whether she is meant to embody them, exceed them, or fall somewhere in between is for the viewer to decide.
Anywho, this movie is looooooooong. Clocking in at a staggering 2 hours and 40 minutes this film has a noticeable girth. Fortunately it’s in the best way. Without spoilers I can say that the film is a crime-thriller. We find ourselves introduced to Mikael, a journalist for an independent magazine that has just lost a libel suit against a CEO he investigated. Depressed and jobless, Mikael takes on a private job for a former industrialist: find out who killed his grand niece in the 1960′s. It’s a fascinating tale of unfolding secrets and characters studies as Mikael connects the dots. I could tell that this movie was based on a novel. Its plot twists really feel like it was meant to be given the kind of detail you usually can’t afford on the big screen.
This is where the films length turns out to be an advantage. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to get a conclusion to the story until the second or even third film. Keep in mind that all I knew was this movie was based on the first book in a series and since it was a full hour before the protagonists were even introduced to each other, I had my concerns.
Concerns allayed. I got to have a complete beginning, middle and end. Daniel Craig was fantastic. Still, Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth stole the show. Strong, proactive, and not afraid to kick some ass when necessary. All in all I thought it was very well put together. While there is more than one naysayer out there willing to trash talk American remakes, you have to give credit where credit’s due. David Fincher has a winning record (Seven, Fight Club, The Social Network) and the source material gave him a lot to work with.
I recommend this film to everyone, children excluded. The film is rated R for a reason. There is strong sexual content and at least one act of sexual violence. Even outside of that the subtext about what men do to women is pretty blatant. Still, all of it makes for a better film.