Movie review: Dire doings of ‘Dragon Tattoo’ filtered through American lens
The stark, chilly 2009 Swedish screen adaptation of the late Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and its two follow-up films utterly belonged to Noomi Rapace, a spiky, darkly seductive actress who seemed to inhabit the role of punk, pieced computer hacker Lisbeth Salander with eerie ferocity.
So the questions that persistently hovered over director David Fincher’s American remake of the first in Larsson’s blockbuster Millennium Trilogy of blunt, pulpy crime novels were: who will play Salander and how will anyone ever match up to Rapace’s fearsome intensity?
Well, the answers to those questions are: 1) Rooney Mara, the tart co-ed who practically stole Fincher’s “The Social Network” in a brief, brilliant and pithy opening-scene performance, and 2) Mara more than matches Rapace, piercing for piercing and tat for tat and delivers a bold, brash and brave acting turn that makes this slick new adaptation of “Dragon Tattoo” all her own.
Since Larsson fans (of both the internationally best-selling novels and fine Swedish-language movies) are legion, it hardly merits detailed synopsis to describe Fincher’s movie. The artful, perfectionist director of such stunning police procedurals as “Se7en” and “Zodiac” and his canny scenarist Steven Zaillian (“Moneyball,” “Schindler’s List”) are fully on their game with this interpretation that trims away loads of exposition and ancillary characters yet stays true to the author’s dense plot and his duo of mismatched, world-weary crime solvers.
While they jigger the ending slightly and juice the thing with stylish visuals that make director Niels Arden Oplev’s Swedish version seem staid by comparison, Fincher and company smartly keep the focus on hyper-intelligent Goth Salander and disgraced crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig in a nice, stubble-faced contrast to his suave 007 persona). Indeed, they are the characters that propel Larsson’s three stories so compellingly – his Nordic, anti-Nick and Nora Charles, if you will.
Wisely, Fincher doesn’t try to Americanize the story and setting. It’s still set in the well-scrubbed Stockholm metropolis and the craggy, frigid climes of Hedeby Island, where the wealthy Vanger clan – a creepy nest of drunkards, hermits, greedheads, abusive parents, closet Nazis and anti-Semites – has its ancestral estate.
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