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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
4
Friday June 1st, 2012

Rooney Mara's Giants have won the super bowl, but championship rings pail in comparison to the Lizbeth Cup. That is, the coveted award given by me to the better Dragon Tattoo film.  Having recently streamed the Swedish version I thought I would do a Sports Illustrated style comparison with the US film I previously reviewed here.

Music

This category isn’t even close.  The music is almost enough to bury the Swedish film. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross do a LOT for the American production. The Swedish film's music is completely competent, but it could easily be paired with any other film.  Whereas the US production's sonic styling is iconic by comparison.

  • Advantage: American

Voice

The Swedish version has the obvious disadvantage of not being in English.  In all seriousness, I love that the '09 version is in Swedish but I sincerely have a hard time immersing myself in a production when I am concentrating on subtitles.  This is Bahston.  We speak the Queen's. Call me a xenophobe.  I dare you - in Swedish.

  • Advantage: American

Direction

David Fincher is a perfectionist, and one of the best of his generation.  This film is not his piece de resistance, but it is solid.  That said, it is not headlong better than the Swedish production given the larger budget and his reputation. Maybe I’m grading on a curve but Niels Arden Oplev held his own.

  • Tie

Script

I believe I heard the US version is truer to the book, but that doesn't concern me so much. For me this category hinges on the manner in which the film's bring together Lizbeth and Mikael Blomkvist's character.  Without giving anything away I will just say that the Swedish version seemed far more elegant to me.  When adapting a book with so much material efficiencies like this propel the story forward.

  • Advantage: Swedish

Performances

Both leading ladies are outstanding. Rooney Mara’s Lizbeth portrayal isn’t as angry as Noomi Rapice’s.  Where some might say there is a lack of pathos I will say I prefer the subtler, slower reveal.  In the long run I think it will make for a better character arch.

Alternately I didn’t like the menacing portrayal of the Vangers in the US version.  Perhaps this was influenced by the score, but it seemed as though they could all be the murderer - even Stellan Skarsgård at his friendliest.  On the contrary none of their Swedish counterparts seemed dangerous. In the end it is a slasher film either way, but I prefer the understated baddy.

  • Tie

Timing

The Swedish film has first mover advantage and for that reason alone shows much better timing than its American counterpart.  Were it a total failure one could understand the desire to make and American language film so closely on its heals? On the contrary its very good.

Moreover, the American version was released the week of Christmas.  Nothing warms the heart and awakens the holiday spirit more than violent rape and torture. The Swedish version on the other hand came out at the end of February - a fine month for sadism.  For the record, The Accused came out in October and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out in May.

  • Advantage: Swedish

Conclusion

While the score is even, I am inclined to say the Swedish version of the film is slightly better than the American.  It’s close – like an Eli Manning to David Tyree reception with seconds left on the clock. The deciding factor is as slight as a Hail Mary pass dropped in the end-zone because your got screwed when your best player had his ankle wrecked in the AFC championship game.

So close Rooney. Better luck with the rematch. Äta Jersey (Eat it Jersey).

  • Winner: Swedish!