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This English-language adaptation of the Swedish novel by Stieg Larsson follows a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), as he investigates the disappearance of a wealthy patriarch's niece from 40 years ago. He is aided by the pierced, tattooed, punk computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). As they work together in the investigation, Blomkvist and Salander uncover immense corruption beyond anything they have ever imagined. Written by
Greetings again from the darkness. The character of Lisbeth Salander absolutely fascinates me. That's true whether we are discussing Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy novels, the Swedish film versions, or this latest film version from director David Fincher and a screenplay from Steve Zaillian. It's also true whether Lisbeth is played on screen by Noomi Rapace (Swedish films) or Rooney Mara. She is a brilliant character hiding in plain sight from a world that has fiercely mistreated her, and now misjudges and underestimates her. She is the oddest heroine I can recall ... and I can't get enough of her.
Let's start with the source material. Stieg Larsson's books are far from perfect, but addictive just the same. The first book (on which this film is based) is, at its core, a simple who-dunnit presented in a manner that is claustrophobic, paranoid and eerie. Moving on to this particular film, we find the director and screenplay holding the basic tone while making a few changes ... some minor, others more substantial. These changes may irk those fans who are a bit more loyal to the books, but Fincher surely wanted to offer more than a simple re-telling of the story.
Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist hired to solve the 40 year old mystery of the disappearance/murder of Harriet Vanger, niece to Swedish millionaire Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). To research, Blomkvist must dig into the Vanger's rotten family tree of Nazis, anti-Semites, sexual predators, anti-social fanatics, and a few just plain loony birds. You can imagine how excited this rich and once powerful family is to have someone uncovering long buried secrets. Circumstances allow for Lisbeth to assist Blomkvist in researching this.
Unlike many mysteries where assembling the clues is the most fun, the real heart of this story is the odd, somewhat uncomfortable developing relationship between Blomkvist and Lisbeth. This latest version allows this to develop relatively smoothly, but it nonetheless rattles our senses. We see the subtle changes in Lisbeth as she slowly opens up to the idea of a real friendship based on trust. Fear not mystery fans, the Vanger clan still provides more than enough juice to keep any film sleuth happy.
It's truly impossible to avoid comparisons between the two movie versions and the respective casts. It's quite obvious Mr. Fincher was working with a substantially greater budget than Niels Arden Opler had for the first Swedish film. While they are both enthralling, I actually lean a bit towards the rawer original. That takes nothing away from this latest version. Same with Noomi Rapace vs. Rooney Mara. Ms. Mara is excellent in her performance and I was fully satisfied, but Ms. Rapace brought a rougher edge to the role ... one that made it even tougher to crack that shell. The biggest difference in the casts is Daniel Craig against Michael Nyqvist. Mr. Craig is just a bit too cool for the role, while Nyqvist captured the insecurity and vulnerability that Larsson wrote about.
All of that is nit-picking. Both film versions are sterling entertainment and hopefully the Fincher version will bring the story to a much wider audience. I would encourage those that are interested to check out the Swedish version, as well as the Larsson books. Maybe that will explain my fascination with this creature known as Lisbeth Salander.
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