The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
As a spotlight for Noomi Rapace, it’s awesome. As an adaptation of an outrageously addicting novel, it’s almost there.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is about a disgraced journalist who finds his reputation tarred and feathered after losing a high-profile legal battle that’s left his livelihood on the brink of ruin. Then clear out of the blue, he’s given the opportunity to investigate the unsolved murder of a business tycoon’s niece despite having no prior experience as a criminal investigator let alone having never watched a single episode of CSI: Stockholm. Being that he’s got some major time to kill until he has to start serving his prison sentence for losing that trial and all, he takes the job and finds an unexpected right-hand woman in the form of a hacker who dresses like Marilyn Manson on a good day and is all about making payback the biggest bitch on the block.
So it wasn’t until last Summer that I finally caved and followed in the majority of mankind’s footsteps by reading the copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that I pulled out of a grab bag during Christmas ’09. Expectations were low after all my uncles put me on blast for getting stuck with what they fingered as undoubtedly the girliest book anyone could have ended up with, but then I hit page ten and I realized that I had just gotten myself invested in the literary equivalent of crack cocaine. It wasn’t enough to get me to pick up the sequel, but after coming off of a book that was a borderline chore to get through (albeit a great book) it was easy to get hooked and it was a wild read to boot.
Anyway, my point is that this movie had a lot to live up to and I think I’ve been kinda jaded by that fact as a result. For the most part, this movie does the book justice, especially if you’re going in blind. But as much as I tried not to, I couldn’t help but focus on all the elements that the adapted script skimped on even though everything for the most part was pretty spot-on. So with that being said, I’ll do my best to not make this a “book vs. movie” review, but let’s just start with the good stuff.
For a movie that clocks in at 152 minutes, this baby moves. It’s never boring, it’s over before you know what hit ya’ and it doesn’t shy away from the hairier elements that make this bad boy a pretty hard R. A definite perk for the folks out there who equate subtitles with “reading blows”, and director Niels Arden Oplev does a great job of transitioning between his two leads so that it feels more like a single plot line instead of separate stories waiting to come together. Big step up from the book in that regard and you’ll forget pretty damn quickly that the subtitles are even there.
And then there’s Noomi Rapace as our gumshoe with a jones for computers and fucking up 90% of the guys she meets since they all happen to be rapists or thugs, Lisbeth Salander. A magnetic character in the novel, Rapace brings a whole new level of Sarah Connor-style toughness to Salander that totally steals the show from the moment we meet her and almost makes you wonder why there’s another protagonist at all. In a nutshell, the whole movie is about the most evil effing woman-haters around who take pride in dominating their “inferiors” in some truly degenerate ways, so it’s double awesome to see scrawny little Salander as both the muscle and the co-brains of the operation.
She is a badass, she is an independent woman of the highest order, she would make me poop myself if we made eye contact in real life. Also dug the addition of Salander flashbacking to her days when she played with fire as a lead-in to the next movie. Well played, Mr. Oplev and your trusty team of writers whose names I can’t pronounce.
But she’s also the double-edged sword of this movie. It’s called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and while the main story doesn’t even directly involve her on the outset, it ends up being all about the girl with the dragon tattoo. And while she’s the biggest thing that makes this movie stand out and I’m sure that last sentence doesn’t make a lick of sense if you’re unfamiliar with the movie or book, our actual main character Michael Blomkvist ends up taking a backseat in every way. It wouldn’t suck so much if Blomkvist hadn’t been a really solid character in the book and if Michael Nyqvist hadn’t done a good job playing him, but the character ultimately gets boiled down as a means to an end and that’s disappointing.
His alternately platonic/romantic relationship with Salander along with the two or three other women he’s knocking boots with are either tied up neatly or ignored completely, the legal battle he loses at the beginning which in turn plays a major part in why he takes the murder case is hardly mentioned at the start and is ultimately resolved over the course of two minutes, and that’s just a couple aspects of his character that are left out in a screenwriting move that can only be described as weak. Like I said, this probably won’t matter if you haven’t read the book, but I liked Blomkvist, I thought he was just as strong a character as Salander in the novel and that a great deal of what made her so memorable went right back to their dynamic together. Now, he’s just kind of…there, and he deserves better than that.
Ugh, just a bummer, but aside from Blomkvist, the meat of the main story is still all there and the constant highlights of this hardcore whodunit should be more than enough to make any viewer forget about the small stuff. Just high-octane mystery-solvin’ with Goth chicks and sado-Nazis, and that’s always a fight worth watching.
So whether you’ve read the book or not, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is still a wild freakin’ ride any way you cut it and I really was this close to giving it an 8. God, if I hadn’t read the book I could see myself giving this as much as a 9 and only now am I starting to realizing that all these complaints of mine are probably reading off awfully nitpicky, and I hate being nitpicky. It’s about damn time I got around to seeing this and it’s nice to see that Rapace does in fact live up to all the hype and then some even if The Academy was too stupid not to nominate her for anything last year.