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Home » Culture and Criticism

6/31: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Submitted by on January 6, 2015 – 2:07 PM8 Comments
Photo: Yellow Bird

Photo: Yellow Bird

Nothing beats grudgingly watching one of the “Why’s this on here?”s in the ol’ Netflix queue and having an unexpectedly good time.

Behold: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a movie with no real business in the lineup because 1) I’d watched the David Fincher remake a few years back and thought well of it, but had problems with the last act I doubted the first film could solve; 2) I didn’t read the book(s), so I don’t have a specific interest in how the various constructions differ; and 3) you may have heard I’m trying to watch and write up a movie a day this month and I ain’t got time for 2.5 hours of subtitled rape-venge.

But I couldn’t settle on a movie yesterday, and the little red numbers in the queue let me know TGWTDT was getting pulled from Netflix Instant today, so: fine, I thought, let’s try it.

I’m glad I did! It’s not essential if you’ve seen the English-language version, and it’s helpful if you don’t really remember said version, because you’ll have more patience with the denouement, which is just as baroque as its Fincher counterpart, but told even less credibly as far as how long it would take Mikael and Lisbeth — singly much less working together in a world with internet — to figure out that Harriet became Anita. You don’t really mind, of course, because the pleasures of TGWTDT come from the table-setting, two different tables that must eventually get pushed together; and from Lisbeth Salander, one of the great wounded heroes of Western narrative, who sounds like a bag of post-goth cliches but defies them all.

The resolution of the Lisbeth/Mikael relationship plays better for me than the 2011 film’s (not least the peek into Swedish “jail,” which looks, frankly, like reading camp; whom can I slander so I can put my feet up in a cozy cubby for six months? He even had a TV!), and while I really liked Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, I like Noomi Rapace even more. A small part of it is that she has a “real”-er face, as European actors tend to, so she looks less like she’s in a costume (although as a character concern it is a costume, or armor). Mostly it’s a higher degree of volatility in the character. Neither interpretation is wrong, and if you enjoy mulling over that sort of thing, it’s worth seeing how two great performances diverge but still inform each other for the viewer.

It’s worth powering through 31 film write-ups in a month’s time to stumble across solid entertainments and interesting contrasts like that, too. (“She says confidently, six days in. Hey, has anyone spoken to John lately?”)




  • attica says:

    I agree about Noomi. I can’t say I enjoyed the Swedish casting of Mikael. No way this guy’s the chick magnet MB is supposed to be.

    What this version did do for me that the Fincher did not is inspire me to start planning a vacation to Sweden. So much pretty landscape!

  • John Ramos says:

    A pile of screeners fell on my arm, send help before I have to slice it off with this copy of American Sniper

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I agree that Noomi is really terrific in this because she understood not to play the damage but what remains. She was so tough but not a superwoman–she couldn’t defy gravity or knock over twenty guys or spit bullets but her own armor suits her far better.

  • lsn says:

    less credibly as far as how long it would take Mikael and Lisbeth — singly much less working together in a world with internet — to figure out that Harriet became Anita.

    That was a complete *headdesk* moment in the book too. Only bettered by having Mikael drive from Sydney or Brisbane (I forget which) to Longreach and then to the station. Seriously dude, there’s flights. Fly to Longreach and then hire the freaking car, sheesh. It’d be cheaper for starters.

  • JenV says:

    The casting of Mikael in the Swedish version was the only part I had a problem with, too. Daniel Craig was far more believable as irresistable lady catnip.

  • I’ve read the books (as well as own them) and saw the Swedish version before I saw the American version, and I like both films for different reasons. The advantages the remake has are (a) the dialogue by Steven Zaillian is a lot sharper and more elliptical, rather than merely functional as it was in the original (though it wasn’t bad by any means), and (b) the relationship between Mikael and Erica was better handled in the remake (it helps Robin Wright does such a good job). The advantages the original had were (a) I’d seen it first, (b) the fact it’s in the original language, and (c) the ending in the original is better because it’s not as protracted as it was in the remake. The exact remake ending is more true to the novel, but while it played okay in the novel, during the movie, I was looking at my watch and going, “Come on, when is this going to end?”, which I didn’t while watching the original.

    As far as the casting of Mikael in the original, the Swedish movie downplays the fact he’s a chick magnet (which, admittedly, is one of the things that bothered me about the whole series, even though I enjoyed them), so I didn’t mind the casting, and I think Michael Nyqvist did a good job, plus I believed him as a crusading journalist. And, of course, I agree about Noomi Rapace; it’s too bad she hasn’t given a performance since at the level she gave in this and the two lesser sequels. Not to say I didn’t like Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara; they were also both very good, and both managed to put their own spin on the roles (and once again, I have to praise Craig for the fact while he’s a big-name star now, he seems totally free of the ego some stars have that makes them demand their characters be the ones that do everything).

  • Halo says:

    I find Michael Nyqvist to be pretty sexy, personally, but I do have kinda offbeat taste (no quibble with Daniel Craig, Sex God). I never saw the remake, just the original Swedish films and really liked them. Maybe it’s because I speak enough Swedish to not have to rely completely on subtitles or maybe it’s that I was spellbound by Rapace, but there was no way I was going to sit through more rape to watch Rooney Mara, who to me is the whistle only dogs can hear.

    But, going back to Mikael a minute, I’m confident the whole reason he’s a chick magnet is that he’s the vanity alter ego of Stieg Larsson. I guess it wasn’t enough to make his protagonist a crusading, left-wing journalist like himself, he also had to be irresistible to women.

  • lsn says:

    @Halo: oh he totally is. Which is why when Mikael is all “who could think of something like this?” when he finds out about the rape details I was “You. Basically.”

    One of my friends described the trilogy as “Dan Brown for the left wing” and… yep.

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