What surprised me most about the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) is that when you really get down to it, it’s just a good old fashioned whodunit. I had no idea what the movie was about going in other than there was going to be a girl and somewhere on her body was a dragon tattoo. Two years later here comes an American remake by one of our finest directors (David Fincher) and this time there were no surprises.
This isn’t to say that this version isn’t without merit or good or interesting. However it does say that if you’ve already seen the Swedish version, you won’t find much new here.
The movie is still about a disgraced magazine publisher, Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) who after losing a lawsuit for liable is hired by old, rich, retired CEO Henrik Vagner (Christopher Plummer) to figure out who killed his niece, Harriet, some 40 odd years ago. Eventually he gets joined in the case by computer hacking, research specialist Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the titular girl.
The movie keeps our two leads separate for a good while, going back and forth between Blomqvist’s investigation, taking place on a cold, snowy island the Vagner family lives on with the neat idea that the killer probably lives there, and Salander’s day to day existence as a “ward of the state.” The movie zips at a brisk pace and gets zippier once the two leads come together.
There’s a lot of investigating going on here, something you don’t see in other movies. The two study photos, interview witnesses, go over records, making something that sounds boring seem interesting.
On the downside the movie is just as brutal as it’s Swedish counterpart. I don’t mind brutuality as a rule but I personally never understand why a rape scene needs to go on as long it does it this movie. At one point I think I would have made an argument for it, but now I don’t really see a point. Yes, we see a girl, she’s getting raped, cut away.
Craig is fine as Blomqvist, a cooler somewhat more assured version of the Swedish film. Mara makes the most of getting a shot at playing the exceptionally smart, but emotionally absent Salander. You wind up wishing there was more of her. At least I did.
If you haven’t already seen the Swedish version, then yes by all means check this movie out if you think you’re up to it. The MPAA warns that it contains “Rated R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language.” If you’re okay with that than this is the movie for you.
One more note. Not only is the movie itself disturbing in parts, it also features the most disturbing title sequences I’ve ever seen.