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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Film Review By A.D.Harris

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Over the past few years, there has been a constant threat of the US taking Stieg Larsson's best-selling novel, already converted into a decent thriller in its native Sweden, and making The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo a household name on the other side of the Atlantic. It was in fact almost a certainty to happen; how could they resist a story that certainty has proven its popularity in both print and a foreign language despite its incredibly dark subject matter.

This however, is no standard Hollywood remake. In many ways, as seen through eyes of Academy Award nominated director David Fincher, it scarcely appears to be an adaptation at all. So hard does he strive to find the originality and visual beauty hidden inside Larsson's text, it feels incredibly fresh and exciting to watch. The opening credits themselves are so eye catching, blood pumping and exciting that they alone are essential viewing...

Introducing Rooney Mara to the world, with what is surely to be the role which defines her early career, is without question the films strongest piece of casting. So deep she goes into her transformation to become Lisbeth that she is barely recognisable; moody, troubled, emotionally disconnected and dark all seem second nature and Mara manages to keep the audience behind her throughout the films long running time. It's something Noomi Rapace managed well in the Swedish adaptations and her career has seen huge growth since, so you have to predict that Mara's will be headed in a similar direction as the dust settles on her deserved Academy Award nomination. She holds you into a trance as you watch her, juggling the difficulties of her character's undeniable intelligence and complex emotional issues with ease.

Backing Mara up as journalist Mikhael Blomkvist is Daniel Craig, in a role which gives the actor much more to chew on than he has in recent years. There is no denying that Craig is a talented actor, yet barring his unique interpretation of James Bond he hasn't stretched his acting chops since his role in 2008's Defiance. It's a wait that been too long coming, and one he doesn't fail to deliver on. Even though Blomkvist is not a patch on Lisbeth in terms of complexity and interest, Craig makes the role his own and finds the sadness, grit, drive and determination that push the character forwards throughout. Blomkvist appears to have always been the much more relatable character in Larsson's novels, and whilst the audience love connecting with Lisbeth, it is also important that her co-star reigns in his performance to find that relatable angle. As such, Craig is as much of a success as Mara, despite the fact his character was never going to draw the same level of attention come awards season.

The ironic thing about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is actually that its plot is nothing more than a murder mystery, and perhaps the strength of the Fincher's creative team only serves to highlight the fact that there isn't a lot of meat on the plot's backbone. Its location is without question the strongest element; the snowy forest terrain of the Vanger families private island serves perfectly as a dark, eerie, isolated and lonely place for such a mystery to have occurred. Yet, seeing as Blomkvist arrives on the island after a mere twenty minutes, we are presented with a split in narrative which only sees Lisbeth's character arc connect to the main mystery well over an hour into preceedings. There's no denying that it gives Lisbeth's character a chance to flesh out, but the jarring difference between the two story-lines fell almost from two separate films. The mystery itself may be set up brilliantly , but as things become clearer it is lacking in originality when compared to that which came before it.

To pay more attention to Lisbeth's harrowing first hour, there is no denying it is difficult viewing. Fincher does not hold back on showing the graphic shock that sees her new guardian taking more than advantage of her saddening situation. It's incredibly brutal, dark and shocking, but it gives you a complex insight into her life, and its because of this section of the film that Mara is finding herself getting the praise of all the critics and awards ceremonies.

Once things begin to adjoin, and the relationship between Blomkvist and Lisbeth is created, the storyline feels much more tight and connected, and as a result the entire film is much stronger. As the mystery slowly unravels, the film flirts with becoming a more conventional thriller as the villain of the piece and Blomkvist find themselves in a game of cat and mouse inside one of the islands residences. Thankfully, it just manages to steer away from this, and ends in a dark and conflicted way; something which a film as bleak and grisly as this should do.

When all is said and done, you'll find yourselves in love with two characters who are clearly incredibly different, but have a connection you can't deny is cinematic gold. Then it becomes crystal clear exactly why Larsson's trilogy of books are so well loved.

Tear out the plot from his words, and you are left with two very real, complex and interesting leading characters. The word real is the most important here; these characters are not your conventional heroes. They have flaws, and undeniably real-life situations. They are the sort of people you walk past everyday on the streets.

The girl with the dragon tattoo and the journalist with the fractured reputation have received an adaptation from the director with the undeniable talent at his craft. When you mix such quality characters with such a master, the result is something that is deserving of your time.

The girl who played with fire sure does sound exciting now, doesn't it?



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