It occurred to me while standing in the queue for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an 18 certificate film at the cinema.
Looking back on the films I went to in 2011, not one of them was an 18, even though in times gone by some of them would have been. So I wondered what it was about this film that deserved the highest age certificate when films like Final Destination 5, Black Swan and A Lonely Place to die only merited a 15.
Certainly it started off without incident. Maybe it was a mistake.
But then came the graphic rape scene, the harrowing retribution to it, the mutilated cat, the grizzly death chamber and that horrendous scene with the old woman and the duck.
Alright, one of those things didn’t happen, but the point is that this film was gritty. Very gritty.
What’s It About?
Mikael Blomkvist – a shamed Swedish journalist – is asked by the head of a wealthy family and owner of one of Sweden’s largest companies to investigate the disappearance of his niece from the island that they live on, 40 years earlier.
There are no shortage of suspects as the island is still populated by other members of the man’s family, and they are mostly unwilling to talk freely on the subject.
Blomkvist is helped in his investigations by Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but damaged computer hacker who starts the film off being abused by a lawyer who controls her income.
I went into this film with high expectations as it has received rave reviews on the whole, with an 8.2 score on imdb.
As it turns out, the film was good, but I felt it was lacking a little bit.
At times it didn’t know whether it was a show like Jonathan Creek, a spy drama like Alias, a grim horror like Saw or a political thriller like All The Presidents Men and so the direction of the film seemed to change a fair bit as it went along.
What I’m guessing is that because it’s an adaptation of a book, certain aspects – like how the characters are thinking – are lost in the translation from print to film. Take Salander for example. She is presumably the main character in the books, especially since they are all named after her. But in the film she’s very much a secondary character to Daniel Craig’s Blomkvist.
We don’t really know what she’s thinking or why she just decides to fall in love with him. Yes, I know what some of will say – that the beauty is in the subtlety of the emotions felt by her etc – but it’s a shift that happens without too much reason or point to the plot.
Also, in spite of the fact that she has hardships – not least with the unnecessarily tawdry scenes with the lawyer – I don’t think she comes across as particularly likeable; not even in an anti-heroine sort of way.
Another reason why the translation from page to screen fails a bit is with Blomkvist’s feud with Swedish Billionaire Hans-Erik Wennerström. In the film we assume that his briefly touched-upon libel case loss to Wennerström at the start of the film is simply to set up the main plot of the film. But it’s not. For probably 15 minutes after everything on the island has been wrapped up, the Wennerström storyline is then returned to as Salander decides to go all Sidney Bristow on us and sort it all out.
Again, I haven’t read the book, but I imagine it probably dealt with this sub-plot in greater detail. In the film it’s just like they ran short on plot and decided to fill up the last bit with something completely different.
Another issue I have with the film is that the mystery of the girl on the island is resolved very suddenly. In a way it’s a bit like being at school and presenting the solution to a maths problem without showing your working. All of a sudden the bad egg is revealed, and just like in most TV shows they find out who that person is (I’m not saying if they are male or female) at exactly the same moment as said-person decides to reveal themselves and go nuts.
Why can the detective never work it out while the villain still believes nobody knows what he or she is up to?
Oh, and then there’s another twist that Mr Magoo could see coming.
Now, I feel like I’m being very critical of this film. For all of my issues with it, I did enjoy it. The acting was of a good standard, I never had to resort to checking my watch despite its two-and-a-half-hour length and it was engaging. But when a film gets given very high ratings like this one has, I feel it becomes open to greater scrutiny. There are basic issues with this film that means in my opinion that it’s not as good as it thinks it is or as good as people want to believe it to be.
I was told before going to see The Artist that it would be an Emperor’s New Clothes type film – that people would like it because of what it is rather than how good it is. As it turns out that was not the case at all, but I suppose you could level that claim against this movie. It’s based on a very popular book and so the assumption is that because of that it’ll be brilliant.
As a side note, there are plenty of familiar faces in this film. For a start (and I mean that literally since he’s the first person to appear) there is the guy who looks like Maurice Roeves but isn’t, Donald Sumpter. Then at one point you hear the familiar voice of Jim Robinson himself, Alan Dale. Yes, Dale is adding to his repertoire of playing foreign nationals who all manage to sound Australian. So far we’ve had American-Australian, English-Australian and now Swedish-Australian.
Sadly Dale only appears in one scene, but at least he has lines. Why they would bother to hire a distinguished actor like Martin Jarvis and have him in one scene without any lines is beyond me.
Oh yeah…one more thing. It’s a film set in Sweden involving a mostly British actors and yet there’s no continuity between which of them are trying to play their parts with Swedish accents and which aren’t. Daniel Craig doesn’t even try. Now you don’t expect them all to go around doing impressions of the chef off the Muppets, but still…either they should all play it with Swedish accents or none of them should. Sloppy.
Should You Watch The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?
There’s a difference between agreeing that the film is as good as other people say it is, and saying that it is good. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a good film. It could have worked perfectly well as a 15 without some of the needlessly graphic scenes right enough, and it also has issues which I’ve been kind and assumed are due to parts of the plot and characterisation being lost in translation, but it is good.
But good isn’t great.
And it’s not great.