Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a (Film) Review

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Unless you've been hiding out under a rock, you've probably heard of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, written by the late Swedish journo-novelist Stieg Larsson.  The conclusion to the book trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, just came out earlier this year.  All three novels are international sensations, and I admit, I bought a copy of the opening number to see what all the fuss was about.  But, as it goes, I never got to read it, and now I'm not sure if I ever will.

In 2009, a Swedish version of the movie was released.  Like its source material, the film received excellent reviews.  Performance-wise, Michael Nyqvist (Mikael) and Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth) both acted their characters perfectly, so I've read.  The tone of the movie was on par with the book, and all around it's grossed loads of money, if you want to measure success that way.  Knowing that Hollywood would be releasing a (likely dreaded) adaptation soon, I decided to rent the foreign film and watch it on Friday night.  (The movie is in Swedish, but subtitled in English.)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a layered story.  Chiefly, journalist Mikael, recently indicted on several accounts of libel, is contacted by the wealthy entrepreneur Henrik Vanger.  Forty years ago, Henrik's niece, Harriet, vanished, and ever since then Henrik's obsessed over her disappearance.  He hires Mikael to try and uncover what happened to her.  Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander, a modern-day punk with a troubled past, has been hired to hack into Mikael's computer and keep track of him.  Eventually the two's paths cross and from there the film evolves.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo 2 This summary is a rough review at best.  There are several things going on throughout the movie, and the disappearance of Harriet Vanger takes the back burner.  The list of suspects is large, and the film takes time to investigate most.  In America, this stuff would largely be overlooked, I think.  Hollywood seems too bent on churning out action and memorable climaxes that not enough time is spent on the rising action.  In Sweden's movie industry, at least with this film, this is not the case.  The plot slowly unravels, inviting the viewer to learn more about the protagonists and their lives.  The whole time I was wondering what happened to Lisbeth in her past?  Is Mikael as "good" as he's portrayed?  Characterization is truly the main driving force behind the movie.

Lisbeth is a highly fascinating character.  Immediately you can tell she's got something going on with her.  She comes across as cold and uncaring to nearly everyone.  She's obviously smart, being her career choice, but how smart?  She's a character with a past that's strongly affecting her every action, and I was interested to explore her more.  Add Mikael to the mix, who's a bit more open to conversation, and dynamic between the two is amusing.

Stylistically, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a dark film.  Part of this comes from Lisbeth's wardrobe.  Part from the cold, deadly grip of Sweden's winter.  Most of it's from the darkness that's becoming more apparent as each minute ticks by.  Incredible acts of violence, some very graphic, and you can't help but feel a pang in your gut.  By the end of the movie, I remarked how sick and disgusting some things were, and Keisha agreed.  Yet, despite this grisly nature, the movie is great.  The real world is not peaches and sunshine.  It's not hard to imagine every dark action taking place outside of the film, and it's a tragedy that such things happen in our world.  The movie is graphic, as I've said, and borderline Realistic, but that culminates in making the film even better.

After watching The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I can't help but wonder how the final two books pan out.  What's in store for the two fascinating protagonists?  Furthermore, I wonder now if it's even worth reading the book after watching the film.  What was omitted?  Would a Wikipedia summary suffice?  I'm not sure, and if any of you could tell me, let me know.  Overall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was an exceptional movie, filled with mystery, tension, and unforgettable characters.  It's dark, but in my opinion there's enough light shining through the shadow to make it worth your while.  If you're going to watch it, I'd recommend doing this version instead of waiting for the Hollywood atrocity that's bound to happen. 


contemplatrix said...

the movie was fantastic: the acting, the cinematography, the costumes...

but the explicitly graphic nature of a few of those scenes make it hard to recommend it to most of my friends. they were painful...and I am guessing they are one of the reasons a Hollywood adaptation is being made.

While I think Fincher would do a good job, I can't imagine them casting better characters, especially for Lisbeth.


logankstewart said...

@L: I agree, it'll be hard to find an actress to play Lisbeth better. The Hollywood version definitely will lack the explicit scenes, opting for subtler angles or implicit actions. Still, I mostly enjoyed this film.

Mattson Tomlin said...

Quite honestly?

This was the best film of the year in my opinion. It really delivered on all levels that I look for in a film. It's really god damn smart, and smart people are behind it.

I recently got a chance to see The Girl Who Played With Fire in theaters. Keep in mind, that I just said that Tattoo was the best of the year. "Fire" was the worst. Everything the first one had going for it was yanked out by hokeyness and bad decisions.

Dragon Tattoo really made me feel good about being in film, and it's harder and harder for me to find films that do that.

Meanwhile, David Fincher is my #1 director. No holds barred, he is it. So the fact he is taking on an adaptation of the same source material (he has maintained he has not seen the film, and won't until after he's finished his own adaptation- he's taking only from the book) I believe that we will wind up with two very different movies, and I actually hold out faith that Fincher will deliver something that is just as wonderful, but in different ways.

logankstewart said...

@Mattson: Dang, I'd hoped the sequel would be as good as the first. Still, I imagine I'll watch it... eventually.

As for Fincher, hopefully the Hollywood version does it justice. We'll see, eh?

Shellie - Layers of Thought said...

Very thorough review Logan.

I do love dark foreign movies. They tend to do a better job of it than the US.

I have the book on my shelf here and am not going to watch the movie until I read it. Movies ruin the books for me. So I will be curious to know what you think when comparing the two. If you do get around to reading it.

I have heard that the story line is a bit misogynistic....not that will put me off since I am really enjoying Lolita...

logankstewart said...

@Shellie: Oh yes, much more than a bit misogynistic. I believe the author, Larson, was an advocate for women and wanted to bring to light certain things. Still, a great movie.

Carl V. said...

It was indeed a great film. I watched it earlier this summer and really enjoyed it. I've ranted at other websites about how annoyed I am that Hollywood is remaking this. Whether it turns out to be good or not is beside the point, I just wish they would get off this kick of remaking foreign films. There is no reason Let Me In should have ever been made. There is no reason this film should be remade. No Reservations was a horrible remake of a beautiful foreign film, Mostly Martha...and the list goes on and on. I get sick of the laziness of Hollywood and wish more original ideas would be greenlit.

logankstewart said...

@Carl: I'm with you on that boat, friend. I don't understand why there can't be more original ideas presented. It's ridiculous.

Kristopher A. Denby said...

I enjoyed this movie quite a lot as well. And I am not the type to tolerate really graphic violence without some redeeming quality. I don't buy into that "violence as art" or "beauty in violence" nonsense. I am not looking forward to the American version. In fact, I wish the Swede's would get off their duffs, promote this thing properly over here, get it a wide release, and squish this American copy cat film.

Solid review, Logan.

logankstewart said...

@Kris: Yes; I'm not really sure why this film hasn't been marketed very much Stateside. If everybody loves the book, it'd just seem like the film company would pay for a few ads to spread the word around. Who knows? We can only wait and see, I suppose.