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‘Dragon Tattoo’ is a worthy remake to Swedish film
April 4, 2012
By John Villarose VI
Hollywood seems to be following a trend in which critically successful Swedish movies are remade using American actors.
Normally, this idea would be viewed as cheap and despicable by most film fans, but after director Matt Reeves remade 2008’s popular Swedish vampire film “Let the Right One In” into the American film “Let Me In” in 2010, people were shocked at how good an American remake can be, especially when the source material was so recent.
“Let Me In” was both critically and financially successful, and is seen as one of the best American horror films of recent years. Now, the same thing has been done again. 2009 saw the release of the Swedish film adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” the first in a series of three books written by Stieg Larsson.
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, the Swedish film went on to receive critical acclaim. It wasn’t long before director David Fincher (“Fight Club,” “The Social Network”), announced he was remaking the film with a 2011 American release.
Once again, the film received universal acclaim, leading to two Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Score, as well as four Academy Award nominations for Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound mixing. It also won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing.
The story centers on Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a young woman who almost perfectly fits the definition of rebellion. She has alternative hairstyles, black clothes, many piercings and four tattoos, including a large dragon tattoo on her shoulder blade.
Though she looks vastly different from the societal norm, her intelligence is far above average, as shown by her incomparable computer hacking abilities and her photographic memory. Sharing the spotlight is Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), an investigative journalist who, after losing all of his savings in a lost libel case, is in desperate need of a high-paying job. He receives one from Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), which sets up most of the event of the plot.
After the success of the Swedish film, Mara (“A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Social Network”) had a large position to fill as the title character. However, nobody could question her commitment to her role. Mara, who had no piercings prior to filming, got six to shoot the film, not all of which were on her face.
The role also required that she dye her hair and train in kickboxing. The effort clearly paid off, as her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander was perhaps better than any other role I have seen by an actress this year.
Admittedly, I have yet to see Meryl Streep’s third Oscar-winning performance in “The Iron Lady,” but regardless, I can honestly say that the power of Mara’s character in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was Oscar-worthy.
Alongside Mara was Daniel Craig, who is best known for playing James Bond in 2006’s “Casino Royale” and 2008’s “Quantum of Solace.” Unlike Mara, Craig already has a substantial list of film credits to his name, so there was no need to prove his talent as an actor, and yet, he did it anyway.
His character’s determination and, in the occasional circumstance, desperation was portrayed almost flawlessly. Strong supporting roles were given by the always excellent Christopher Plummer (“The Insider,” “Beginners”) and by the Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård (“Good Will Hunting,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”) who played Henrik’s grandnephew Martin Vanger.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is not for the easily-squeamish. One should be warned that this is a murder mystery full of violence, sex and deception, as most good murder mysteries are.
Maybe as a huge fan of Fincher’s previous films, I’m a bit biased. Yet I went into the film with extraordinarily high expectations, all of which were met or exceeded. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was one of the best films of 2011, and seeing as it released on March 20 for DVD and Blu-Ray, there is no reason to miss this film.