Monday, March 30, 2015

Before I Die #544: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

This is the 544th movie I've watched out of the 1,162 films on the "Before You Die" list that I'm gradually working through.

Director: David Fincher

An excellent adaptation/alternative version of a phenomenally successful novel.

Like millions of readers, I got caught up on the "Millenium" trilogy of books by the deceased Swedish author Stieg Larsson several years ago. I found the first book a very engaging and novel look at deep-rooted, institutional xenophobia and misogyny through the lens of a complex murder mystery.

I saw the original Swedish film adaptation that was released in 2009, and I thought it a solid but slightly flawed take on the story. In 2011, we got a rare treat: a U.S. remake that is actually better than the original European version. The improvements can likely be connected to a much larger budget and the direction of David Fincher, a man who is no stranger to telling very dark and complex tales in films.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it mostly follows two unique characters. Mikael Blomqvist is a crusading but embattled journalist who is hired by an incredibly wealthy businessman to potentially solve a 40-year old murder within his large and largely-dislikable family. Also involved is Lisbeth Salander, a tortured and antisocial genius hacker who becomes Blomqvist's research assistant. There are a ton of curious and sordid details that go into explaining how the two become connected, which make for a dark and fascinating story. Fincher's movie ties the many threads together as skillfully as possible, though an unfamiliar viewer will need all of their attention to keep up.

Yes, Lisbeth can be just as wicked as she
dresses. Fortunately, she tends to direct her
scary smart rage towards misogynists. 
Blomqvist and Salander are great characters in their own rights, and they are brought to life by outstanding performances by Daniel Craig and Roony Mara. Not to slight Noomi Rapace, who admirably portrayed Salander in the original Swedish film version, but I found Mara added just a little more bite to the role. The affable Blomqvist and prickly Salander are different in nearly every way but for two important things: their desire to see justice done and their their unwavering energy to see it through. When the two find their causes overlap, we get some extremely satisfying storytelling.

For those unfamiliar with the details of the story, I have to warn you that it goes to many extremely dark places, with graphic detail regarding murder and rape. If you can stomach such things in your fiction, then this movie is well worth watching. While I found the subsequent two novels not as strong as the first, I do hope that the cast and crew of this 2011 adaptation come together for the rest of the series.

So that's 544 films down. Only 618 to go before I can die...