Monday, January 9, 2012
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011)
Although I have not read the best-selling novel by Stieg Larsson upon which this film is based, I have seen the 2009 Swedish version. And because the new English-language adaptation (written by Steven Zaillian and directed by David Fincher) tracks its foreign predecessor nearly to the letter, I feel confident proclaiming that both versions closely hew to the popular source material. Wealthy entrepreneur Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) hires disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) to determine what happened to his niece Harriet, who vanished from the family’s island compound 40 years earlier and is believed to have been murdered. When his investigation puts him on the trail of a serial killer predating the girl’s disappearance by several years, Blomkvist requests a research assistant. He receives Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the tattooed and pierced cyber savant sociopath who performed Blomqvist’s background check for Vanger. The film only alludes to past events which turned Lisbeth into an androgynous grotesque, but she has adequate present day problems. As a 20-something ward of the state, Lisbeth must report to (and get access to her own funds from) sleazy social worker Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), who isn’t above sexual blackmail. With the reluctant assistant of Vanger’s nephew Martin (Stellan Skarsgard) and estranged niece Anita (Joely Richardson), Blomkvist and Lisbeth delve deeper into the family’s sordid history until the corruption and depravity threaten to consume them. The performances are uniformly excellent. Craig makes for an appealing if ethically questionable hero, while Mara hints at the wounded child underneath Lisbeth’s feral exterior. Zaillian’s efficient yet atmospheric script clarifies Larsson’s lumbering plot but sets up the next film with a confusing, overlong epilogue. Fincher’s elegant direction evokes the bleakness of character and setting, while creating a growing sense of dread. That said, the film’s subject matter is unsavory to the point of moral rot, and one can’t help but wonder who besides fans of the book would find this enjoyable. And I even wonder about them.