Just a few weeks back in an earlier review, I’d lamented Hollywood’s incessant need to remake popular products, as if Tinseltown had suddenly run out of original ideas.
Having proposed this had been the case with Craig Brewer’s Footloose remake, I found myself amazed at how a new director, usually a fan of the original work in question, decides to add a few touches of his own, be it thanks to a fresh perspective on the material, or simply a muhc larger and lavish budget.
So which one was it, when it came to this remake of Niels Arden Oplev’s spellbinding 2009 Swedish masterpiece, based on the ubiquitous posthumous novel by Stieg Larsson? Well, a bit of both, actually.
If you’re the standout person out of three who hasn’t been reading the Millennium Trilogy while commuting to work, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. In that case, read on…
What Exactly is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo All About?
Taking place in wintery Stockholm, Sweden a few years past, the film introduces us to Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig, Monsters and Aliens), publisher of an investigative political magazine called Millennium, as he finds himself on the losing end of a libel case involving a self-righteous billionaire he thought he had definite dirt on.
As the film begins, Blomkvist’s career seems over, until he gets a call from a retired and incredibly wealthy Swedish businessman named Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer, Beginners), who hopes to help the disgraced journalist get back on his feet, as well as assist him in solving a potential murder that is decades old, involving the disappearance of Vanger’s great-niece Harriet, missing and presumed dead since 1966.
Blomkvist begins his investigation into the alleged murder, where he must find out as much as he can from other members of the Vanger clan, many of them distrusting and venomous. Not your typical happy family.
Meanwhile in Stockholm, the State assigns a new guardian to a gifted and rebellious young punk goth hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara, nominated for an Oscar for this performance), following an accident with her previous mentor/father figure. This latest guardian opts to mistreat young Lisbeth and abuse her rights, by demanding sexual favors before granting her basic rights such as access to her own money.
As Lisbeth plans her revenge against her guardian, she soon comes into contact with Blomkvist, who learned she had profiled him prior to his getting hired on by Vanger. He opts to hire her as his research assistant, despite some personal differences between them.
As the duo work their way through every file, picture, video clip and personal diary from the Vanger clan, will they succeed in finding out who killed Harriet Vanger? Will Blomkvist find a way back to respectability following his fall from journalistic grace? Is Lisbeth stable enough to be more help than nuisance to her new partner?
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo A Work of Cinematic Greatness
Anyone who’s seen any film by David Fincher knows to look for hypnotic visuals, paired with tight, well-edited and fast-paced stories. To say that the Social Network director was tailor-made or destined to direct this remake is an understatement.
Despite the millions of people of have already read the books and seen the original Swedish trilogy of films starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyquist, there’s a certain freshness to this latest version, possibly due to Fincher’s eye for detail, and his refusal to pull punches, especially when it comes to shocking material. Anyone who’s seen Seven is bound to agree.
Daniel Craig displays a vulnerability he has rarely shown as a muscle-bound hitman or secret agent in the service of Queen and country. As Blomkvist, he shows flawed uncertainty, a credible sense of journalistic curiosity and a protagonistic appeal which calls out to the viewer.
As Lisbeth, young actress Rooney Mara transforms herself both physically and emotionally, making her former film personas and everyday look disappear in a blink. The result is nothing short of shocking and mesmerizing.
The film boasts an impressive list of excellent supporting roles, from Christopher Plummer to Stellan Skarsgaard, along with Robin Wright and Joely Richardson, among others.
Having seen the original trilogy, I must admit I bought right back into the storyline, an addictive mystery which easily explains the books’ worldwide appeal.
Any Good Bonus Features?
Absolutely. Hardcore fans will no doubt want to immerse themselves into the several hours’ worth of behind-the-scenes footage, which takes the audience deep into the production, offering new levels of understanding of this multi-layered thriller.
Fincher purists will want to give the film a second viewing with the director’s commentary, if only to get a richer viewing experience. I did, it’s excellent. I recommend it, if you have time to spare, since the film already runs at two and a half hours.
One last thing: while it’s not necessarily a bonus feature in itself, I strongly urge you to watch the opening credits a few times’ easily the most imaginative and visually striking montage I’ve seen in a while, it’s definitely worth a second viewing, while you enjoy Trent Reznor’s retooling of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song.”
The Final Word on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Combo
As far as thrillers go of late, I couldn’t recommend any better a film. It’s well-paced, incredibly well acted, shocking and awe inspiring all at once, and rich with detail and full characters. The best part? There are two more films on the way.
As is rare in my reviewing experience, I give this film a much deserved perfect score, for its outstanding entertainment value. With that in mind, I warn you: this is NOT a film for the whole family.