Film review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 version)

“Lisbeth Salander” (Liz-Beth  Sa-LAND-er)

The mention of that name instantly divides my readership into two discrete groups. Those who know who “Lisbeth” is and those that don’t.  If you know who Lisbeth is, you are eagerly awaiting “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in theaters this weekend. If you don’t, we’ll talk.

The original film (2009) was Swedish with English subs. A faithful rendition of Stieg Larsson’s sordid first (and best) novel from the trilogy that has become a worldwide phenomenon. Originally portrayed by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace who for my money defined the role of the lost and abused child-woman Lisbeth who can hack any computer and deal out merciless retribution when abused. A sinister creature formed from abuse and injury; how you would expect a young woman to evolve under those circumstances in the new millennium. She’s an updated, punked out version of “La Femme Nikita” (1990).  Original Lisbeth Noomi Rapace is a tough act to follow and I entered the 2011 version armed for ruthless criticism.

Updated film version this week is directed by David Fincher and stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara (shirt-tail relative of the Pittsburgh Steelers Rooney family).  The film is basically a straight up Agatha Christie potboiler put to snow and ice. Daniel Craig is good. Christopher Plummer is outstanding. You’ll remember Stellan Skarsgård as Robin Williams’ former Harvard mathematician professor roommate in “Good Will Hunting (1997).”  The story line is interesting, well photographed and expertly directed. The problem is Rooney Mara.

I don’t think Rooney Mara quite fills the bill.  She doesn’t reinvent Lisbeth. She puts a viscerally unique spin on the incredibly involuted character.  But in the end, she’s a good copy, but a copy nonetheless. Despite harsh makeup and black hair dye, she’s a little too soft and pliable for the character as I envisioned her. She just didn’t work.

There’s another significant problem. There’s no inherent reason why violence shouldn’t be explored in films where it’s a natural consequence of the plot. However, The very explicit and graphically sexually violent scenes have nothing to do with the plot and develop a life of their own detracting from the thrust of the film. It’s almost as if they were thrown in to attract the bloodthirsty American audience’s interest.  None of it enhances or defines he character. There doesn’t seem to be any point to it.

Therefore, I have a two-pronged review depending on which group you find yourself in:

Group 1: If the name “Lisbeth” means nothing to you and you have no intention of reading the book, you should see this 2011 version as a stand-alone, then go down the road having been exposed to the encapsulated author’s vision. It’s the best you can do with minimal time and energy expenditure. Toward that end, I give it a 3 out of 5 lip rings.

Group 2:  If you know who Lisbeth is, you are probably a Stieg Larsson nut case and a film interpretation of the book film is mandatory if for no other reason than to visualize the author’s vision.  However, I cannot recommend the 2011 film out this week.  I think it’s an OK but not spectacular re-build of the 2009 film. I recommend you go to the source and get the 2009 film on DVD, torrent or Netflix.  I think it will serve you better in terms of understanding Stieg Larsson’s original vision. I give the 2009 version 4 of 5 nose piercings.

(FWIW, Roger Ebert prefers the 2009 version).






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