By Coop Cooper
Set in modern-day Sweden, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a high-profile journalist publicly disgraced after failing to expose a corrupt business baron. The patriarch of a wealthy dynasty (Christopher Plummer) hires Mikael to investigate a 40 year-old disappearance of a niece in return for information that could clear Mikael’s reputation. When Mikael’s investigation reveals he is on the trail of an elusive serial killer, he enlists the aid of the brilliant, yet antisocial computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), to help him analyze the cryptic evidence.
Based off of the sleeper-hit novels by the late Swedish author, Stieg Larsson, “Dragon Tattoo” was adapted into a 2009 Swedish film with the two remaining sequels filmed back-to-back. The films became an international success and propelled Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander) into the Hollywood A-list, securing her first English-speaking role in “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.” Regardless of the success of these films in the U.S., Hollywood is never one to pass up on remaking a foreign-language hit.
I attempted to watch the original, foreign version of “Dragon Tattoo” when it released but I quickly lost interest in its snail-paced plot, convoluted storyline and a lead actor who had the charisma of a sea sponge. While many of my friends and family became fans of the books and film series, I tuned out. I did agree that Noomi Rapace had the chops to become a big Hollywood star, but I didn’t see any need for a remake, nor was I excited by the prospect. Fortunately, Academy Award-winning director David Fincher took the helm of the remake and hired an all-star cast, resulting in an Oscar-caliber film which vastly improved upon the original.
Daniel Craig proved to be the perfect choice as Blomkvist. While the character isn’t a dashing spy like James Bond, Craig adds a touch of class and charisma lacking in the original “Dragon Tattoo.” In fact, all of the acting is above top-notch. The real standout is Rooney Mara who eclipses Noomi Rapace as the quintessential Lisbeth Salander. Mara gives such an exceptional performance, I expect her to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
The character of Salander is the primary reason to watch this film and become immersed in the series. Her technical brilliance and punk exterior compensates for a severe social awkwardness (supposedly caused by a lifetime’s worth of abuse) that makes her both dangerous and fascinating. In the final twist of “Dragon Tattoo,” she reveals her true talents as a mastermind and in the process, completely shatters any previous expectations of her character’s personality. I suspect after the film adaptation of the final book releases, Hollywood will find a way to keep Salander active.
The film has a few flaws. “Dragon Tattoo” suffers from the most obnoxiously pointless opening credit sequence I’ve ever witnessed. Like the opening titles of a James Bond movie, “Dragon Tattoo” takes a butchered version of Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” and places it over bizarre images of characters made of a black oil substance grotesquely morphing into various horrific tableaus. It’s as if the film’s experimental composer, Trent Reznor, had said, “Hey, this is the kind of music video that made me a popular alternative musician back in the 90’s, therefore I refuse to work on the film unless we begin it with a surreal gothic music video!” It’s a severe misstep that only detracts from the story and the film’s already overlong 158 minute runtime, which could have benefitted from a large amount of trimming.
“Dragon Tattoo” is still one of the best films of the year and I hope Rooney gets her due come award season. She single-handedly compelled me to look forward to the continuing adventures of Lisbeth Salander in the two upcoming sequels.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars