The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) ****

January 12, 2012 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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The dark seeps out of the screen like living thing, evidence that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is more than a paycheck to director David Fincher, who has improbably affixed his own imprint on a movie that comes weighted down with possibilities and expectations no filmmaker should have to contend with. Aided by a tightly-wrapped screenplay adapted from Stieg Larsson’s global best-seller by Steven Zaillian, Fincher strips the material to its skeleton, then adds back the sinew and tissue to create something that is unmistakably The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but in no way a carbon copy of the earlier Swedish movie or the book itself. This is what a movie adaptation should be: a film whose base narrative has its roots in the source material but whose soul can be identified through the images that unfold on screen.
When, in early 2010, Columbia Pictures announced their intention to film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the question that crossed many lips was, “Why?” After all, there was already a very good adaptation available, a 2009 Swedish production directed by Niels Arden Oplev with a star-making turn from Noomi Rapace. The intention to “remake” The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in English with an A-list star smacked of a cash-grab. Whatever the motivations, however, this interpretation of Larsson’s story can stand proudly alongside the Swedish version. Both tell the same basic story, but there are enough differences – some subtle, some significant – that each can be enjoyed on its own terms. And, although Oplev will always have the distinction of being first, the strengths of Fincher’s film reminds us that first is not always best.

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