Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - 2011 movie

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by the late Stieg Larsson is one of the most remarkable of all crime debuts. I very much admired its ambition and scale - quite breathtaking in a first novel. Lisbeth Salander is a dazzlingly original creation and I also loved the way Larsson combined elements of classic mystery fiction with a highly contemporary story-line that is absolutely crammed with plot material. I don't claim it's a perfect book, of course. What I'm not sure about in particular is whether a certain unevenness in the narrative, and e a bit of over-writing (I felt maybe as much as 100 pages could have been cut without great loss, and the result would have been an even tighter and more focused book) is due to the fact that Larsson died before publication, and may have chosen to go back to the book, and edited it down somewhat, had he lived.

I haven't seen the 2010 Swedish movie adaptation yet (but I will soon, as I recently acquired the box set of DVDs). However, I've just watched the 2011 American version, directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig, and I felt - though it may verge on heresy to say so - that it was even more impressive than the book, because the need to condense the story enabled Fincher to concentrate on the core elements of the story, and he did so very effectively.

Craig really is a good actor - one of Cheshire's best! - and he puts in a characteristically strong performance as the journalist with a conscience who tries to solve a series of killings of women dating back many years. I also felt that Christopher Plummer was excellent as the elderly tycoon who hires him - one thing's for sure, The Sound of Music this movie ain't. Special praise goes to Rooney Mara, who tackles the enormously challenging role of Lisbeth Salander with aplomb.  

Fincher makes some of Larsson's points about crimes committed by powerful men against women (depressingly very topical in light of current horrifying allegations about the late Jimmy Savile) but he doesn't do so in a heavy-handed way. As a result, the film grips from start to finish, despite the unusual and convoluted plot. I really enjoyed it.


Maxine Clarke said...

I agree that this is a good film - and so is the Swedish one, which I highly recommend.

There are Swedish films of the other two books, but they are not as good - directed by a different person and apparently cut down from TV series/movies. The last one in particular over-emphasises the brother. But they are all worth watching, I'd say, better than most films that are around. Noomie Rapace is brilliant as Lisbeth.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Maxine, I'll put it high on the watch list!

Maxine Clarke said...

By the way, I agree with you about Christopher Plummer's moving performance. In the Swedish film his part is played by Sven Bertil Taube whom you might recall as one of those handsome blond leading men of the era - he also played the role extremely well I think.

(Yes, too, on Daniel Craig!)

Martin Edwards said...

I certainly do recall him - for one role. It was in Puppet on a Chain, based on Alistair MacLean's novel. In the 70s, I was very keen on the MacLean books, including that one.

Bill Selnes said...

I enjoyed watching both movies. I liked the Swedish Mikael better than Craig and the American Lisbeth better than the Swedish actress.

What was most powerful to me was how the screen made the attack on Lisbeth and her revenge more real than the written word.