The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Steven Zaillian, Stieg Larsson
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Geraldine James, Joely Richardson, Robin Wright, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
(18) Running time: 158 mins
Director: David Fincher
Writers: Staig Larsson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard
Reviewed by: David Gillespie, official HCF artist
2011 was nothing more than a countless array of sequels, 3D rehashes, sister flicks* and remakes hitting the big screen. I have no problem with this process if something new is brought to the table. But if the makers fail in this excercise then it shows a huge lack of imagination, effort and a faint whiff of corporate greed. How many instances do you examine your local multiplex listings and struggle to find a movie that appears in any shape or form to be original? If the HCF Best of 2011 list is anything to go by, with movies like Drive, Kill List and We Need to Talk About Kevin rating very highly, it is that the smaller budget, independant films are more than likely going to feature in a moviegoer’s future DVD collections not the movies that swamp the multiplexes for weeks on end. Yet for the average film company the ‘cash cows’ are still going to be the no risk options with sequels (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), 3D rehashes (Starwars saga), sister flicks* (Thor) and remakes being the way to cash in. The next of the remakes to be repackaged and cleaned up for American consumption is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The big question on everyone’s lips is whether it was worth the wait? I can hear you all snore with anticipation.
Moneyball’s Steven Zaillian adapts the English screenplay of Steig Larsson’s novel to the big screen. It follows disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) as he is employed by industrial CEO, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to write up a history of the Vanger family and perhaps shed some light on the disappearance of Henrik’s neice, Harriet. Henrik believes Harriet was murdered by a member of his family. A family member that may still be living on the island of her disappearance. Mikael is promised a lucrative reward, including evidence against a rich tycoon that has won a libel case against him, on completion of the project.
In the meantime, Vanger’s right hand man, Frode (Steven Berkoff) has used Milton Security to undertake a thorough investigation of Blomkvist’s past. The work is carried out by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an asocial but brilliant investigator. Due to tragic and shocking events in her past she is considered to be legally incompetant and is subjected to rape and humiliation by her repugnant legal guardian, Nils Bjurman (Yorik Van Wageningen). It is explained that Bjurman has a past of abusive behaviour towards his clients. However he soon comes to realise that he has met his match with Lispeth who responds to this treatment in the most ruthless and efficient manner possible by turning the tables on her tormentor.
Meanwhile Mikael digs further into the Vanger history and meets the various members of the family. They respond to his presence on the island with varying degrees of hospitality ranging from welcoming to hostile. After learning that Lispeth has been hacking into his computer, Mikael persuades the young investigator to help him track down a local serial killer that may have had some connection with Harriet’s disappearance. The further they dig the closer they get to the killer and the extent of the corruption within the Vanger family.
If there was one thing that disappointed me about Niels Arden Oplev’s version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, then it was the running time and pacing. The project was more reminiscent of a two part television miniseries than a fully structured feature film. David Fincher has fallen into the same trap. Rather than trim the project into a fast moving and tension filled thriller, the story drowns in the countless subplots and characters that fill the 3 hours running time. There is also very little evidence that Fincher has tried to change the movie that preceded his in any way with like-for-like sequences appearing in regularity. This destroys all the tension and shock value to the action and violence that unfolds throughout proceedings.
Noomi Rapace’s performance as Lisbeth Salander was electric and the driving force of the Swedish version. Rooney Mara copes admirably with the role but does seem uncomfortable at times. Not all the fault can be aimed at Mara as the script writers have rather unwisely hinted that Salander begins to fall for Blomkvist’s charms and a possible future for them both. Rather than humanise Lisbeth, this seems to weaken her character. Perhaps this direction follows closer to the novel?
The movie’s highlight has to be the stunning opening credits sequence with Trent Reznor’s version of the Immigrant Song thumping in the background. A friend commented that it looked like a S&M version of a James Bond opening credits. I was rather excited that this was a sign of things to come but how wrong I was. There is nothing wrong with David Fincher’s version of the story. For someone who has never witnessed the Swedish movie I can highly recommend a visit to your local multiplex as this is a solid mystery thriller with fine performances, visuals and production values. For those that have seen the original, there really is no point in going to see the same movie all over again.