Cinema Review – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)


David Fincher‘s remake of the acclaimed 2009 Swedish movie, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tells the story of journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker, who aids Blomkvist in his search for a woman who has been missing for 40 years.

When it was announced that there was to be a Hollywood remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Fincher fans around the world rejoiced at the news that the director had signed on to do the film. The director was surely the right choice for the film as he would bring the right level of dark to an already dark story, but it is difficult to review The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo without comparing it to the Swedish film that was released a mere two years ago. Happily, this is a very different film than its predecessor, even though it tells the same story.

There has been a saturation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series in the last few years, not only with the novels, but the Swedish movies as well, so it is hard to imagine that there are many audience members who are unfamiliar with the story of Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). This barely matters though; David Fincher has managed to make the material fresh again.

Daniel Craig plays Blomkvist as a world-weary journalist whose career is in shambles after being found guilty of libel. As a stopgap, and to get out of Stockholm, Blomkvist takes a job investigating a high profile family; the Vangers. Craig’s character is not quite as soft as Nyqvist’s version, but this stands to the character. As the layers of intrigue draw him in Craig allows the character to remain strong, but curious.

Rooney Mara plays Lisbeth Salander, one of the most coveted roles in recent times. She is entirely unrecognisable as the girl from The Social Network, and captures the strength and vulnerability of the character. Daniel Craig allows this fearsome and seemingly fearless character to take centre stage where she enthrals. Salander is a character shrouded in mystery, but bit by painful bit, her armour is stripped away. There is a curious innocence in Mara’s eyes at the start of the film, but as events take an abusive turn, this innocence is lost. That said, even as Salander builds walls around herself, they gradually come down through her relationship with Blomkvist – this is particularly obvious in the character’s hair; she starts off with it spiked, like a gladiators helmet of old. As she softens and warms to Blomkvist, her hair becomes less extreme. An interesting progression.

The choice to cast a relative unknown as Salander was absolutely the right one, as the audience does not spend time trying to recognise the actress, but concentrates on the character. Mara takes the character and runs with it, and obviously has the time of her life in doing so.

The supporting cast are nothing short of excellent. Stellan Skarsgard walks the line of friend and foe perfectly, and every word and every glance is filled with delicious malice. It is fantastic to see him in this adaptation, as it always seemed a little strange that such a high profile Swedish actor was not in one of the country’s most successful exports. Joely Richardson has obviously inherited her mother’s gift for the subtle. She may not appear on screen much, but when she does, she is commanding.

There were several issues with the original Swedish film that David Fincher and screenwriter Steve Zaillian have ironed out. The pacing was far too slow, but Fincher allows the tension to build before allowing the mystery to come to a head. The source material was obviously the inspiration for the screenplay, and choices that jarred in the original film have been removed. That said, however, the film does still suffer with a false ending – like the original – but this is handled quickly and the blame lies more with the novel than the film.

This could easily have ended up as an incredibly heightened film, not set in any reality the audience could understand, but Fincher keeps the film on the straight and narrow, and navigates plot twists and uncomfortable scenes with ease. There are some of the director’s trademarks missing – the looming slow zoom, for one – but there is never really any doubt that this is a David Fincher film.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is really everything we could want from a winter blockbuster; an incredible ensemble cast, skilful direction and an incredible score from Trent Reznor. The story has something to keep everyone happy; murder, kidnapping, revenge, romance and mystery, even if some of the scenes are more than a little difficult to watch. The only complaint could be; we need a little more ‘Fincher’ and perhaps a longer gap between the Swedish and American adaptations.

Rating: 3.5/5

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