‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’

5 01 2012

Thought for the Day:

‘My writing is pension insurance’

Stieg Larsson (1954-2004)



Stieg Larsson’s  best-selling ‘Millennium Series’ trilogy, which includes ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, has received worldwide critical acclaim, with 50 million copies sold in 46 countries. Sadly, it was published after the author’s death from a heart attack in 2004, aged 50, and he never got to enjoy that pension.

One of the reasons I took early retirement, in my mid-50s, despite growing government insistence that increasing average life expectancy would necessitate the need to work on until nearer 70, is because, by definition, many will fall (literally) below  that age.  

I already know far too many people from the teaching profession who have either died or suffered incapacitating illness in their late 50s/early 60s and was always going to jump ship as soon as it was financially viable to do so. I fully appreciate not everybody has the luxury of that choice – but I did and took it.

Nevertheless, two years on, I still feel a slight tinge of guilt when on a blustery, miserable, winter afternoon I find myself sheltering from the elements, and taking cheer from a midweek matinee outing to the cinema.  

Chris and I did exactly that today. Having devoured, and thoroughly enjoyed the Stieg Larsson  books, but having heard varying opinions of director David Fincher’s film version of the ‘Girl with Dragon Tattoo’, we wanted to judge for ourselves.                 

The jury was clearly out on the ‘Worcester Vue’ website where a 5* review, ‘Very true to the book, an excellent film with a great cast, hope they make the other two stories,’ contrasted markedly with that of another Mark Kermode wannabe who opined, ‘1*- Lightweight pap. Poor direction. Clumsy storytelling. Makes the Da Vinci Code look like a masterpiece!’

I have to say I’m always very wary of films of books, particularly when a best-seller is given the Hollywood blockbuster treatment, and I feared the latter review might be too close to the mark for comfort.

However, having watched this 158 minute big-screen interpretation of a 538 page novel that Philip Pullman (author of the excellent ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy) described as, ‘Several cuts above most thrillers…intelligent, complex, with a gripping plot and deeply intriguing characters,’ I would suggest that the movie is largely deserving of similar praise.

Given that I was familiar with the characters, plot, and the final outcome from the outset, there was hardly a moment when I was not gripped, principally due to strong performances across the cast, atmospheric, wintry, Swedish location shots and a storyline which rarely deviated from the book, retold with integrity.     

Daniel Craig seems to be  flavour of the month, but perhaps rightly so. He is a good actor and his portrayal of Mikael Blomkvist, investigative journalist and co-owner of the Millennium magazine, called upon by Henrick Vangar (Christopher Plummer), former CEO of Vangar Enterprises and patriarch of the grossly dysfunctional Vangar family, to solve the 40 year old case of the disappearance of his grand-daughter, Harriet, is suitably understated and totally empathetic with Larsson’s character.

This is certainly not 007 with a ‘Svedish’ accent!

Robin Wright (Jenny from ‘Forrest Gump’) is also well cast as Erica Berger, Blomkvist’s co-editor and love interest at the magazine’s Stockholm office. I found her portrayal just as I had imagined the character.    

But it is American actress Ronney Mara, as the enigmatic, bisexual, body pierced, genius computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander – the girl with a dragon tattoo (amongst others), who grabs the action by the b-lls (literally so in the case of ‘Bjurman’ her sexually sadistic ‘guardian’) and drives the film  forward. Hers is a dynamic performance worthy of recognition.   

The lurid and at times graphically misogynistic content (no surprises if you’ve read the book) is an essential ingredient of a never less than compelling cinematic experience which, in my opinion, both complements and does justice to Larsson’s written word.

Although it stands up well, alone, as an investigative thriller movie, if you’ve not already read the book my tip would be to do so before you visit the cinema. You won’t be disappointed. And then read on as the Girl ‘Plays with Fire’ and ‘Stirrs the Hornet’s Nest’, before the cameras start rolling again – as they surely will.                                 








4 responses

7 01 2012
Another Phil

Loved the film…..and like you I am always reticent of watching after enjoying a book. The time in the cinema flew past so absorbing were the characters and the plot. My wife hadn’t read the book but also spoke in superlatives & coped with the sex scenes!
So thanks for the stimulus to take us there
Off to Mansfield today to see the mighty FGR

8 01 2012
Phil Aldridge

Hi Phil
Happy New Year to you and yours.
I’m glad you enjoyed the film. I see the Stags beat FGR 1-0. I hope it didn’t spoil your day out too much.
It’s heavy going being a Forest fan this season. I’m going up to watch them play high flying Saints next week. Fingers crossed!

19 02 2012

Sorry Phil, only just picked this up.
After the conversation New years Eve I was not sure you’d get around to seeing it, particularly after I told you the ending was not the one you’d know. All the same glad you decided it was worth trying and enjoyed it. I can’t wait for the next and have been tempted to pick up the Swedish trilogy even if it only comes with sub titles.
You are obviously going to the cinema but how is it going with the other resolutions? If I keep reading I may find out!

19 02 2012
Phil Aldridge

Hi Philippa
Things are going well with us. We’ve had several outings to the cinema this year. Chris is continuing with her Italian assisted by Valeria, the European teaching assistant, who stays with us two nights per week. I’m trying to teach myself Spanish and basic acoustic guitar – but still very much a beginner. We’ve booked a holiday to Vietam, Laos & Cambodia, at the end of April – so looking forward to that.

I guess you are getting very excited now about the iminent arrival of your first grandchild. Hope all goes well and we look forward to hearing from you with the good news later this month.

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