Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Followers of this blog will know that I rated the original Swedish TV movie 9/10 when I reviewed it last year. I have also blogged with scepticism about this Hollywood remake for those who don't do sub-titles. I wasn't expecting much but I was prepared to part with my cash and watched it this afternoon. I couldn't have been more wrong in my expectations! This film is mesmerising.

Any review is bound start by making comparisons with the earlier film. The new film is 6 minutes longer - but is so much more evenly paced that the 2 hours 38 minutes simply flew by. David Fincher chooses to place the emphasis on different aspects of the story and plot devices seem less contrived and much more natural. From the opening sequences and soundtrack you are treated to a visual and aural feast with bigger vistas and a more expansive view of Sweden. The sexual violence is every bit as graphic and not for the feint-hearted. I appreciate the 2009 version was made for TV and therefore direct comparisons are unfair.

The main two characters will of course come under greatest scrutiny. Both are acted with great sensitivity and wholly believable. However, for me, Daniel Craig is the less convincing of the two in the lead role of Mikael Blomkvist - too un-Swedish if that makes any sense, too smooth and cosmopolitan. Rooney Mara's Salander is different from Noomi Rapace's portrayal but every bit as engaging and if anything even more human. We literally see a lot more of Mara than we did of Rapace and this newer version seems to have much more active libido! Mara's Salander gives visual clues to the emotional battles that rage inside her and delivers a more accesible yet at the same still alien heroine. It will be interesting to see how the characters develop in the sequels which must already be in pre-production.

The storyline is pretty much the same as the first film except this time around we see more of Salander's original guardian - Palmgren and her new guardian (Bjurman) is frighteningly more like the average guy next door. In terms of the story we also see a significant role for Blomkvist's daughter whom I don't recall much at in the first film and less of a role for Erika Berger as Blomkvist's co-editor and long-term love interest. Overall, this version has more of a feel of a moral crusade than the 2009 version. The way in which the story develops is more convincing and at the end it is easier to make sense of what Salander does to Wennerstrom to bring him down. The change to the ending is a disappointment - perhaps they ran out of budget for trip to Australia?

This is still a brutal film. It's good to remember that Larsson's original title in Swedish was Men Who Hate Women as that is the unifying central theme and the hook that allows Blomkvist to get Salander onboard with the project. If you loved the books or have only seen the 2009 movie - you'll love this one. This one gets the same 9/10. Great cinema.

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