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Mixed Tape Reviews: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Dec 15th, 2011 | By | Category: Entertainment, Sights
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig

It took two films and untold millions of dollars to prove it, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo simply does not lend itself well to filmmaking.

Granted, both Noomi Rapace (from the 2009 Swedish film) and her American counterpart, Rooney Mara, from this newest adaptation directed by David Fincher give memorable performances as the surreally intelligent and empowered goth hacker Lisbeth Salander. However, that’s not enough to mask that the story by late author Stieg Larson is ungainly and never rises above the realm of a quite hollow procedural mystery. The story never attempts to define or further develop its characters in any significant way nor contribute to any overall themes. What we get instead is a constant stream of lurid details of grisly violence, rape and Swedish Nazis.

I actually attempted at one point to read the original novel by Larson, but after slogging through a 15-page opener focused entirely on the Swedish financial system, I sat the book down and never opened it again. Fortunately, neither film adaptation cares too much about Swedish finance. One slight improvement that the U.S. version has over its predecessor is that it takes a step further from even caring about the central mystery.

The script by screenwriter Steven Saillian (Schindler’s List, Moneyball) pays lip service to the adventures of milquetoast reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a disgraced journalist contracted by wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to find out what happened to his beloved niece Harriet, who disappeared from his island home forty years ago. To crack the case, our sleuth must contend with Vanger’s family, a dysfunctional nest of hateful Nazi sympathizers and liars. One of them also happens to be a serial rapist and murderer of women with a torture porn man cave set up that would make Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs jealous.

It isn’t until Blomkvist is joined by Salander that the mystery is even remotely watchable. Wounded by nearly all of the men in her life, Salander grows to like Blomkvist shortly after they meet. Not only because he’s not trying to abuse her, but also because he treats her as an equal. There are even a few occasions where he concedes to her superior intelligence and sense of intuition. They make a great odd couple, but their eventual sexual dalliance is somewhat tragic due to the fact they are both trapped in a meandering story of little consequence.

Bless his heart, director David Fincher tries his best to overcome the story’s shortcomings – or long-comings, since the movie chokes on its unwieldy story for 158 minutes. He does this by attempting to make the off-beat romance between Salander and Blomkvist central to the plot and less hit-and-run. For instance, rather than kicking Blomkvist out of his own bed immediately after their first tryst as she did in the original film, Salander opts to share a cigarette with her ransacked bed-mate. He even tweaks the ending with a final scene that attempts to be heartbreaking before cutting to the final credits. But to break our hearts, a movie must own them first.

Earlier in the review, I had referenced The Silence of the Lambs, a similarly grisly mystery novel adaptation that highlights everything that’s wrong with Dragon Tattoo by comparison. Both films involve grisly murderers who are pursued by strong female protagonists. But where the mystery in Silence of the Lambs is central to the permanent development of Clarice Starling, Salander’s mystery feels like a bloated episode from an endless TV series about her life.

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