Many critics, in their reviews of this film, ask how an audience unfamiliar with Stieg Larsson‘s best-seller Män Som Hatar Kvinnor or the 2009 Swedish picture of the same name, would react to this remake by David Fincher if they saw it first. I believe I can answer this question.
Yes, I’m one of the presumably very few who attended The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo without having seen the original film or having read the book, and knowing quite little about it. What I got was an interesting and at times immensely horrifying thriller but not a cleanly flawless one.
Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomqvist, writer at the Milennium magazine, this time around. He is called by one Dirch Frode (Steven Berkoff) who wants him to come to the island of retired, wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) ASAP. Henrik was once CEO of Vanger Industries, but this position his nephew Martin (Stellan Skarsgård) has earned from him. He asks Blomqvist to help finish his memoir, though this isn’t all he asks of him. Henrik also asks Blomqvist to investigate a disappearence/presumed murder nearly 40 years old: that of Henrik’s niece Harriet, who vanished without trace on the day of a big family dinner, I think it was.
To solve it, Blomqvist eventually seeks help of a young woman, a hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Her story is a dark one and she has a hatred towards men, at least those who are misognists and rapists and therefor her nemesis. This hatred of hers comes primarly from an incident with one of her guardians, a lawyer named Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen) who beats her up horribly at one point and then proceeded to rape her.
The scene which depicts the rape is one of the more disturbing moments in the film and is hard to watch. Yet the one in the original is supposedly worse. Dear, oh dear.
Something that annoyed me quite early in the film is how Fincher seemed to want to make absolutely sure we didn’t forget that it was set in Sweden. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Swede myself, but I found myself somewhat distracted. Oh look, she’s eating at Max. It’s Sweden! Oh look, a TV4 reference. It’s Sweden! Literally, one of the first frames in the entire film is a closeup of a Swedish computer keyboard, specifically the letter Å. I sighed at that, to be honest.
Then there’s the accents. Some sound British like Mr. Plummer, Skarsgård may be Swedish but sounds very American, Craig’s accent is all over the place and I don’t even know what accent Lisbeth was supossed to have. The rest, of course, speak English with Swedish accents and I cannot stop wondering about that. Why make it seem like the characters are Swedish but still use English for no apparent reason? You should pick between having the characters speak their native tongue, which of course would make sense, or they should speak plain English, as if the film has simply been translated for the audience’s convenience. Instead it’s as if the characters are all Swedish but use English because, I dunno, I guess they’re bored. This bizarre accent-problem also appeared in Schindler’s List.
I’m only complaining so far, but trust me when I say that there are still very good things about the film. The greatest thing by far is Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. She gives an astounding performance and she makes the rape scene gruesomely believable and her revenge scene truly scary. The Academy ought to award Rooney with the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is an interesting and effectively disturbing film that suffers a bit from a drawn out and tedious ending, a somewhat weak twist (compared to the original, I hear) and again, some distracting performances. Also, I keep hearing that the story is a bit too focused on Blomqvist’s search for Harriet’s killer, as the original film was technically about Lisbeth and the murder-story was only a subplot, but then again, I didn’t see the original so I don’t truly know. Nevertheless, this film began my exposure to Stieg Larsson’s franchise and I thankfully find myself interested in more.