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Review : The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)


Released (UK) , Rated 18. Runtime: minutes (0 hours, 0 minutes).

The Red Corner - Lisa

Red Corner Review, by Lisa

Added March 24th, 2012

Having never read the book and knowing little about the film before seeing it, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was very aware of the hype surrounding the series – I also knew this was a remake of the original Swedish film. I found myself thinking towards the end of this film that it would be interesting to compare the two and upon leaving the cinema vowed to do just that.  I usually see little point remaking a ‘foreign’ film for western english speaking audiences… yes, im talking about all those horrors like The Grudge, The Ring, REC etc. I had heard that this is a difficult movie to adapt from the book due to the complexitys in the plot – having never read it I dont know if that is true, but what I do know is that I felt like quite the social leper not having read this book or knowing anything about the trilogy. in it’s own way this was advantageous as I was coming to it fresh, lacking in expectation and willing it to impress me.

The intro was… mesmerising. It reminded me of the intro to a Bond film initally but I literally could not take my eyes of the screen. Coupled with a cover of Led Zepplin’s immigrant song, it made for a powerful beginning to the film. So dark, abstract and twisted; it really created a sense of anticipation about what was about to unfold.

The film thankfully retains it’s Swedish setting – something I was immeasurably thankful for as I am not sure this film would have worked if set in… say… Austin Texas. The actors even did their best with an accent. One of the things I liked most about this film was the excellent cinematography used – it sets the scene so well and created an atmosphere, and not just shows us some beautiful snow covered mountains. I think for non Swedish folk or people like me who know very little about the country itself, the way in which things are done ‘differently’ in another country adds to the sense of mystery that is evoked well in the film.

The plot centres around disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist’s investigation of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger: beloved niece of patriarch of the Vanger business dynasty Henrik. Coming close to the end of his life and in poor health Henrik wishes to determine what happened to Harriet and suspects someone in his family is responsible for her murder. Blomkvist reluctantly accepts his generously paid offer and sets about deliving into the tangled web of the Vanger family with the aid of mysterious assistant Lisbeth salander: a researcher and computer hacker. Lisbeth is no mere sidekick in this tale – indeed she is captivating as a character. The actress Rooney Mara plays her with both a vulnerability and steel of character that is utterly captivating – you find yourself enaging with this girl; where did she come from? What has happened to her?

Lisbeth’s sub-plot revolves around her having being declared mentally incompetant at a young age, and following the recent stroke of her legal guardian she is assigned another – a brutal, sadistic lawyer called Nils Bjurman. The actor who plays Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen) plays the character with a genuine sinister malice that I have not felt for a long time in recent cinema history. Thinking Lisbeth is just another vulnerable young woman he uses his legal power over her threaten her with committal to psychiatric institution unless she performs sexual acts for him – if she is compliant he will agree to release more of her funds. With little choice she reluctantly agrees, though plans to film him on their next encounter in order to bribe him to stop. However, he handcuffs her and brutally rapes her. It was one of the most uncomfortable scenes I have watched at the cinema in a long time, and I can handle cinematic blood, gore and depravity better than most.

Lisbeth’s revenge is every bit as savage and during these sequences I felt myself rooting for her for taking revenge in the same way in which she was brutalised – actually felt like standing up and cheering at one crucial point. These scenes for me were extremely powerful and I have rarely felt as creeped out, disgusted and moved. These two scenes really demonstrate both her vulnerability and her determination – two contrasting qualities that make her such a fascinating character. My favourite bit of the film was where she tattoos him – again a very powerful statement. I think because of what happens Lisbeth and Mikael later sleeping together was a little unexpected, but then again it seemed like a spur of the moment decision in keeping with her character, although it did shock me a little. This is a character we as viewers come to care about.

The film is slow to start and I admit to feeling a little disappointed that with so much promise that the slow pace felt like it was grinding on up a snow covered hill. Thankfully, it picks up and there is excellent build up of pace and tension. Daniel Craig played his part well and I felt his performance was under rated enough not to overshadow other elements of the film – namely Lisbeth. He also managed to be rather endearing with his glasses hanging off one ear. Elements of  humour in the film were somewhat unexpected, and I quite enjoyed the scenes with the cat.

In terms of the two ‘twists’ in the story, I knew that Joely was Harriet from the outset and I also figured out from Martin Vanger’s (Stellan skaarsgard) first scene with Mikael that he was the killer (I was sure that I heard a woman scream coming from the basement area). I enjoyed the climax of the discovery of Martin, and the cat and mouse game at Martin’s house culminating in Mikael being taken to the torture cellar. Here Martin regails Mikael with his rational for carrying on his sadistic father’s work, and it felt genuinely uncomfortable when he attempts to remove Mikael’s trousers and speaks, as if to himself in a completely mundane way, “never done this to a man before”. Creepy. Lisbeth saves the day and leaves Martin to be consumed in a fireball. Anita/Harriet is  reunited with Henrik, but the film surprisingly doesnt end here.

With the information given to Mikael by Vanger and the additional information sourced herself, Lisbeth goes after the shady business man who blackened Mikael’s name at the start of the film and to to whom he owes substantial libel damages, taking his money and exposing him for the fraudulant liar that he is, thus clearing Mikael’s name. As Lisbeth returns from her transatlantic escapades, she buys Mikael a handmade custom biker jacket – when she goes to see him to give it to him discovers that he is still romatically involved with married Millenium magazine owner Erica. There is a sense here that just when she has let someone in, he has let her down. Certainly leaves us feeling disappointed for her and wondering what will happen in the next installment.

I didn’t like the ending. It felt overly long and the bank account pilfering scenes were drawn out much more than I felt they needed to be. For me the natural ending of the film would have been for her to hand over the cheque for the 50 grand and just walk away. The rest of it seemed incongruent at that point, but perhaps has some relevance to the sequel. Whilst I liked Lisbeth’s tattoo,  I will admit to struggling to get from the film exactly why it is called The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?

Overall very enjoyable.

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