I wonder how many films of the 93 I’ve reviewed so far have either been remakes, based on a book with multiple film adaptations or have been remade. Well here’s another. It’s David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Now I haven’t read the books but I do own the three Swedish films. Is this a remake that falls into the pointless category ala Let Me In and A Nightmare On Elm Street? Or is it a worthy revisit to the source material as True Grit was? I had guess you had better click the following link to find out. Or you could read review by someone else. I won’t be hurt.
In case you’ve somehow managed to avoid the whole Millennium Trilogy craze over the last year I guess I should fill you in on the details. The Millennium Trilogy is the collective name for three novels written by the late Stieg Larsson that follow the investigative adventures of Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Of the three stories in the trilogy Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the most focused on a singular mystery, the mystery in question being an investigation into the death of a teenage girl 40 years prior.
Mikeal is the lead reporter for a political magazine called Millennium and as the film begins we learn that he has just been pulled through the courts after being accused of falsifying evidence in a expose on a leading businessman. After being shamed by the media he is given the chance to escape from the public to investigate the previously mentioned murder. Meanwhile Lisbeth Salander is experiencing a hell of a lot of problems with her parole officer (Guardian in Sweden). Eventually she is called in to help Mikeal with his investigation but not before she’s fixed her little guardian problem.
Much like the Swedish version of this film the story does take quite a while to get to the point you want it to reach, that being Mikeal and Lisbeth working together. In the Swedish version this was partly down to it being a re-edit of two 90 minute long TV episodes. The events that doe slow the stories starting chapters down are there because of how essential they are to future instalments in the series. Not that they’re lacking in importance in anyway to the main plot. Here they serve to reinforce that the US version isn’t just some quick cash in. Fincher and Co are clearly planning to build the entire franchise on the base of this film.
Performances are strong throughout, especially Rooney Mara’s take on Lisbeth. She has clearly watched Rapace and taken on a few of her mannerisms but she also plays Lisbeth as a little more fragile. Rapace’s Lisbeth was a tough girl you don’t mess with hiding a fragile sore. Mara’s has obvious cracks at the surface of her brave facade. The one issue I have with performances in this film comes from the accents though. I have no problems with the accents of characters not being right as long as they’re uniformly wrong. For example I don’t expect every movie set in WW2 Germany to have a cast of German accented characters when they’re all speaking English. Here there seems to be a random mix of Swedish and very British accents. Rooney Mara does a very good Swedish. Daniel Craig makes no effort what-so ever, well except for when he says his own characters name at one point. Perfect Swedish accent on Blomkvist. Meanwhile the rest of the cast is a mixture of Swedish and British actors who appear to have an equally mixed set of accent choice. Christopher Plummer gives a great performance as Henrik Vanger full of small endearing qualities. I would talk about Stellan Skarsgård’s performance but would risk revealing too much about his best scenes. Suffice to say he is excellent, as usual.
The film makes no bones about the brutality of the story being told. Nothing is hidden which was a concern of mine when I first heard about this Hollywood interpretation. Luckily Fincher got the directing job because as far as I can tell the studio bosses just let him shoot whatever the hell he wants now. Bet he wishes his next film was Alien 3. I certainly do. The film was lensed by Jeff Cronenweth who is fast becoming one of the best cinematographers in the industry. He has worked with Fincher before on The Social Network and Fight Club and was also cinematographer on the excellent One Hour Photo. The film has a very cold feel with a lot of muted colours being used to remind you just how harsh a story this is. A story nearly as harsh as it’s snow covered environment. Wait, that should be the other way around.
It sounds like I’ve been picking holes in the film here with my complaints of accents and the early pace but really that’s all there is to truly complain about. The story isn’t a traditional 3 act structure so some people may find the start and the end to have an off pace but Girl With The Dragon Tattoo never stops being an interesting film that, once it does get going, never fails to engross. The film actually works really well as a stand alone thriller and, I may get flamed for this, I’d like to see a version made one day that is free of the constraints of story establishment for the following two parts. I think we’d get a much slicker and carefully plotted crime mystery from it.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross return from their work on The Social Network to provide the score here and it’s as much of a driving force behind the film as their previous work. Full of dark ambient rumblings and subtle audio cues that either set the mood or carefully nudge the viewer into feeling the tension. A scene where a heartbeat is sneakily placed in the background being a prime example of how well they build the tension at the right moments. Oh and that cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song is so awesome. Also thankfully not just shoehorned into a nightclub scene either which I really expected. Instead it’s played within the first 2 minutes in a very dark, fast paced James Bond-esque title sequence. Lots of people covered in oil with scales and wires floating about the place. Very cool.
At the end of the day this may not be Fincher’s best film but it’s certainly up there. It follows the Swedish cinema version almost note for note with a few minor changes here and there. It’s not as pointless as Let Me In ended up being because at least this is unmistakably a Fincher film. If you’ve not seen the Swedish version I honestly couldn’t recommend which one to view first. I suppose at least with the prior film you have it’s sequels there ready for your visual consumption. They both have their strengths and weaknesses but I’d say Fincher’s just about comes out on top.