Rating: **** (4 of out 5)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came out last Christmas to great expectations. The hype was due in part to its cast – current Bond man Daniel Craig opposite the talented Rooney Mara – and in part to the success of the film’s Swedish predecessor, Män som Hatar Kvinnor (2009). Both movies are based on the same crime novel by Swedish writer and journalist Stieg Larsson.
|The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by David Fincher
The 2011 American adaptation is directed by David Fincher, the filmmaker who gave us Seven, Fight Club, and more recently, Social Network. Girl tells the story of Mikael Blomkvist (played by Craig), a reporter who has just lost a libel suit before landing a job offer to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl 36 years ago. Blomkvist is aided by an unlikely sidekick, a Goth-punk hacker Lisbeth Salander (played by Mara). The investigation leads the dynamic duo to face off a serial killer whose confessions eventually help Blomkvist solve the decades-old mystery.
Girl is Seven meets James Bond. Unable to shake his 007 persona, Craig is too confident and debonair for a frustrated reporter. And because he makes no attempt to put on a Swedish accent, he ends up sounding exactly like the pistol-wielding, martini-sipping, Oxford-educated secret agent in Casino Royale. Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings), with his Danish roots and weathered look, would have been a better Blomkvist. By contrast, Mara’s portrayal of Lisbeth Salander is nothing short of brilliant, proving the young actress’ range and versatility. Mara supplies the perfect mix of fragility, defiance and grit of an orphaned child living on the fringes of Swedish society. Like Heath Ledger in Batman: The Dark Knight, Mara doesn’t just play the part, she becomes it. It was a shame that she lost the best actress award to Meryl Streep at this year’s Oscars.
|The versatile Mara in Girl (left) and Social Network (right)
I watched Girl on my flight from London to Hong Kong and it kept me on the edge of my uncomfortable seat for two and a half hours. The film is dark, clever, fast-paced and full of haunting images. That you haven't read Larsson’s novel or watched the Swedish adaptation should not deter you from catching the American version on video. I did neither and I still enjoyed the film immensely. On the flip side, the movie has so many subplots that the audience may get overwhelmed. Several times I had to rewind the video because a critical line got muffled by the different foreign accents or I was confused by the many Swedish names. That may explain why the movie was a box office disappointment despite all the hype.
|The international bestseller by the late Stieg Larsson