Monday, December 19, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ★ ★★ ★ ½

Release Date: Australia January 12, 2012 Other countries
Rating: MA 15+
Running Time: 158 mins

 The Answer to the Millennium Question?

We serious moviegoers don’t like remakes. Especially remakes of European movies. Hollywood has this thing about underestimating audiences. They think we don’t like reading subtitles.

They take a good story, already successful in a foreign language, cast some big name actors—sometimes not—Hollywoodfy it. And presto, we all have another reason to dislike remakes. We comment to each other, “Did you see the—enter European country of origin here—version? It’s sooo much better.” Then there’s the book conversion film which encourages the same discussion. “The book was sooo much better.”

So, here we go again, this time with ‘The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo’. Unless you have lived on another planet, you will know that it's book one of Stieg Larsson’s Swedish Millennium trilogy, which has sold 65,000,000 copies in forty-six countries, since its publication in 2005.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo opens with Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) in a load of trouble. He works with Millennium Magazine and is convicted of printing a libelous story against billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. There is one bright light for him, though, when one of Sweden’s wealthiest industrialists, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) hires Blomkvist to discover what really happened to his beloved niece, Harriet, whom he believes was murdered by a member of his large family.

Lisbeth Salander (played by an unrecognizable Rooney Mara), an ingenious researcher, is contracted via Milton Security to investigate Blomkvist for Vanger. Lisbeth is an antisocial, pierced, tattooed, cold personality with a dark past. When Blomkvist moves to the Vanger family property, set on a remote snow swept Swedish island, he begins to unravel, step by step, the forty-year-old mystery of Harriet’s disappearance. Things become explosive when Lisbeth joins him in his quest as together they follow the leads to a most surprising end.

Now for the million dollar Millennium—or entrance price—question…

If you’ve read the book and seen the Swedish film—which I have—is there any reason to see this remake? I pondered this as the lights dimmed and the exhilarating sound track by composer, Atticus Ross (Academy Award® winner for Social Network) began pumping.

The unequivocal answer is YES. It is one of the best thrillers you will see this summer, and worth it, if not just to see Rooney Mara’s habitation of Lisbeth Salander. Director, David Fincher, whose last effort ‘The Social Network’, swept the Academy Awards® last year, teams with Steven Zaillian (co-writer Moneyball) and producer Scott Rudin to bring this story to the screen so dynamically you won’t realise you’ve just sat there for a not inconsiderable 158 minutes.

The only thing that would improve the experience would be to be handed, upon cinema entry, a family-tree card of the Vangers. The relationships are a lot to follow at the cracking pace set by the film—even if you have read the books.

Ultimately, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" contains no big name stars leaping off incredibly tall buildings, amazing motion capture characters, smart spies or Oscar winning performances from actresses seeking more awards. What there is, though, is a group of consummate film makers coming together to create a film that will knock your socks—or tattoos off.

And yes, it’s better than all the books and films combined. And, yes again, films of the other two books in the series will follow. Go see it.