Friday, July 30, 2010

Under 250: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

You know those rare cases when the movie adaptation is better than the written source material?  This is one of those.  I read the late Stieg Larsson's international bestseller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo after I saw the film, forced by peer book groups and a *totally obsessed* mother, and was thoroughly disappointed.  Where the first cinematic installment of the Swedish trilogy was a high tension thriller bristling with intriguing characters, sharp cinematography, and the sort of take no prisoners criminality that makes it clear David Fincher is the perfect director for the American remake, the book is a bland bout of facts, figures, and shallowness (sorry mom...).   Solid exposition, limited characterization, poor translation.  I couldn't get into the book (sorry book club...), and perhaps the vivid nature of the film is partially to blame.  Director Niels Arden Oplev takes few liberties with the core of Larsson's story; but what he abridges, edits, and reconstitutes is pitch perfect, allowing the book to transition seamlessly from mass market bestseller terrain to deftly crafted art.  Actress Noomi Rapace takes on vengeful hacker/badass Lisbeth Salander with a quiet, seething rage that makes her screen presence that of a human atom bomb.  She's hard to ignore, and the film is engrossing, easily slipping into the caliber of crime drama inhabited by films like Insomnia (1997) and Se7en (1995).    In short: for the literary snobs amongst us, this time it's ok to skip the book.  Jump straight to the movie.  If you must, proceed from there.

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