Watch This: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

   5 stars of 5

Only rarely does a movie based upon a novel capture the essence of the original, but with GWTDT, it’s now been accomplished twice over.  If you’ve seen the  excellent Swedish version that was released a couple of years ago, you’ve got to wonder why anyone would feel the need to do it again. Nevertheless,  screenwriter Steven Zaillian and director David Fincher did just that, and though theirs is not quite so menacing, it’s exciting, compelling, and very well made.  Daniel Craig turns in a solid performance as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist, although it seems he’s been typecast, much as was Clint Eastwood in earlier days. Christopher Plummer is terrific in the role of  aging industrialist Henrik Vanger, who hires Blomqvist to find out who murdered his young niece decades ago. The real star of this show, however, is Rooney Mara, the virtual unknown who landed this plum of a role, the unconventional, psychologically damaged, yet powerful Lisbeth Salander.

This is a dark, brooding film, with two themes, that of the murder mystery, and that of  Lisbeth’s unrelentingly painful young life. Brilliant but almost psychotically defensive, she’s managed to retain her capacity for empathy. While she goes way overboard when compelled to bring about justice, she’s the type of heroine that you can’t help but root for. It’s interesting to see Lisbeth’s humanity begin to emerge as she and Blomqkvist begin to develop a relationship; too bad it takes about half the movie to get to their initial meeting. Though critics have written that the Zaillian version has been toned down for American audiences, its brutal violence and depravity are still difficult to watch. On the other hand, Sweden’s wintery scenery provides the perfect backdrop for such a story.

Let’s hope it’s not too long until the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, hits the theaters.

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