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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I want you to help me catch a killer of women, 24 Feb. 2014
This review is from: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
The Swedish version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is one of the greatest foreign films in recent years, mostly due to the brilliant Noomi Rapace.

So an American remake sounds like an automatic fail, even one directed by David Fincher. But this remake is an unusually faithful one, especially for Hollywood -- not only is the film actually set in Sweden, but it preserves the bleak, icy atmosphere and violent undercurrents of the original. And while Rooney Mara is no Noomi, she and Daniel Craig do solid jobs as the leads.

Take-no-prisoners journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) has just lost his reputation, his savings and his freedom (hello, jail sentence!) after a nasty libel suit from a crooked executive.

Then he's unexpectedly contacted by aged industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), to discover what happened to the guy's grandniece, Harriet. She vanished years ago from the family's isolated island home, and her body -- alive or dead -- was never found. When Mikael agrees to take the case, he's cybershadowed by the abused goth hacker Lisbeth Salander (Mara).

Eventually Mikael ends up finding out about Lisbeth, and her very unique skills. Intrigued by this strange wounded woman, Mikael asks her to help him in his cold-case investigation, and the two begin unwinding a bizarre string of serial killings from long ago -- all tied to Bible quotes. And as Mikael unearths the clues to Harriet's disappearance, he also finds some skeletons long kept buried -- and a killer who might target him next.

"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" takes the typical murder mystery, and enfolds it in a ruthless look at modern Swedish society and the study of sexual aggression. It's a dark, dangerous, unfair world where the truth is quashed and women are treated horribly -- whether it's the long-missing Harriet or the eccentric, angry "girl with the dragon tattoo."

And Fincher gives it a surprisingly amount of loving care. No Americanized names, no switching the action to an American city, no soft-pedalling the gruesome sexual violence -- yep, that horrifying rape scene (and its gratifying payback) are here.

Fincher isn't quite able to capture the wild, raw beauty of Sweden, but he is able to give the movie a somber, icy quality -- even in warmer months, it feels chilly and lonely. He unfolds the story with a minimum of Hollywood pyrotechnics, instead focusing on a collage of photographs, coded messages and old crimes half-forgotten. It's only in the last act that things start building into a bloody, creepy thriller.

However, the wrap-up for the movie seems to drag. Yes, it's important to see what happens after the climax, especially if they're going to make a sequel -- but did we really need to SEE Lisbeth shopping for a wig?

Rooney Mara doesn't quite fill the screen with dark dynamism as Lisbeth Salander should, but she does give a compelling performance -- a cold, almost cyborg-like presence that can suddenly explode into jagged icy rage. Daniel Craig's Mikael can't quite compete with Lisbeth, but Craig gives an outstanding performance as a weary journalist whose life is threatened by his encounter with the Vangers, and given new vitality by Lisbeth.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a bleakly beautiful piece of work -- the actors are excellent and Fincher shows great respect to the original movie. Here's hoping for the tale of a girl playing with fire.
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