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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: BD Review

May 1st, 2012

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The Oscar-winning adaptation of the blockbuster Stieg Larsson novel is a must-have on Blu-ray....

Sony / 158 Minutes / 2011 / Rated R / Street Date: March 20, 2012

The dirty little secret of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo novel (originally published in his native Sweden as the far more appropriate Men Who Hate Women) is that it's a painfully overwritten book. Its central mysteries and characters are sensationally vivid and multi-faceted, but you could cut two hundred pages out of this, the first book in his Millennium series, and still have more than enough to work with. 

This is what Steven Zaillian and David Fincher understand so innately and evocatively in their criminally underrated American film version of the movie, now available on Blu-ray. Between this Rooney Mara vehicle's theatrical release and its post-Oscar high-def release, Netflix subscribers have been chatting about the qualities of the Swedish-language extended versions that have been available for streaming, but one look at this 158-minute adaptation will push those editions swiftly to the side.

In short, while the lengthy and often sluggish three-hour Swedish television of the novel might be a more accurate note-for-note illustration of the book's narrative, it's Fincher's vision that captures its feel with the most candor and bite. Through Fincher's eyes, Lisbeth Salander (Mara) becomes not just a uniquely splintered heroine, but a twisted, chiseled valkyrie of sorts, a broken and bruised woman-child who guides us through the icy halls of Dragon Tattoo with steely, enigmatic force.

Yes, the ending of the novel has been tidied up and changed a bit, and there are ancillary parts of the story's mystery - about Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) getting assigned by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to figure out what happened to his beloved niece forty years ago - that have been all but completely lopped off, yet while Larsson purists cry foul, the rest of us can have a chance to enjoy an interpretation of Lisbeth Salander without these unnecessary side-trips.

American response to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has been surprisingly muted - audiences didn't flock to it; critics were of two minds - but a Blu-ray edition as unbelievably well-oiled as this one will quite likely allow the movie's reputation to take on a new sheen in the coming months and years.

Fincher is on a once-in-a-generation hot streak (not counting the yucky Benjamin Button, with an arc that takes us from Zodiac through The Social Network and now Dragon Tattoo, the guy's at the top of his game), and while this moody, entrancing film may not have fit into the genre paint-by-number boxes of holiday megaplex moviegoing as neatly as many hoped, there's little doubt that upon further viewings, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's innate cinematic merits will continue to increase in value.

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