Thursday, May 13, 2010

Higgens Network: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Adapting a book like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is not an easy task due to its extreme popularity. It’s now one of the highest grossing books of all time in Sweden, its original country, and has held a strong presence on the bestselling charts in America. It’s praised not only by audiences but by critics as well. In an unprecedented case, it was nominated for the Best Novel and Best First Novel in last year’s Anthony Awards, winning the latter.

So there is an expectation to take this adaptation seriously and faithfully. Niels Arden Oplev managed to pull off a really worthy version. He manages to balance all of the complexities of the plot in a very concise way. Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is a popular journalist who has been discredited by a powerful businessman and is about to be sent to prison for libel. In the months leading up to his imprisonment, he is hired to work on an unusual case. Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) is an old rich man has been grieving ever since his niece went missing during a family gathering forty years ago. Since the bridge connecting to their private island was blocked, Henrik knows it had to have been someone in his family.

Running parallel to this investigation is the life of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). She is a young woman who has had a very difficult life. She is extremely smart, but socially distant. She has been abused most of her life and will continue to be assaulted during this movie. She works as a computer hacker and becomes interested in what Blomkvist is doing.

Salander is always the most interesting part of the entire trilogy and Rapace does a great job of capturing the difficult persona. The movie was brave in showing all of her flaws and the darker elements. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is the infamous interaction with her guardian. The film does an intelligent job of letting the audience interpret most of her motivations going into that moment.

A lot of this comes from the European way of filming thrillers and mysteries. Not much is romanticized or over-explained. The focus is really on the plot and the characters and it moves in a very deliberate pace. The editing is quick to move from location to location once new information is made. This adds a powerful level of suspense and treats the audience with more respect than the typical Hollywood fare.

Now this is already will remade for English audiences because we all know subtitles are scary. As long as they remain faithful to the plot, I think it has opportunities to be a good companion film. As good at the two leads were in this film, the rest of the supporting cast could have been stronger. Especially certain members of the Vanger family. Also I think there is more to explore with Salander’s character in this first volume. Before Stieg Larson died, he finished the first three books following Salander and Blomkvist. In Sweden, they have already finished the trilogy and the other two will be released internationally eventually. It’s too bad that Oplev didn’t direct the next two films because he has a distinct and interesting visual style that is never overt or distracting. It really shows his place as an extremely professional and reliable director. I can’t wait to see what he and the leads do following this giant (and earned) success.

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