The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright
Directed By: David Fincher
Talk to me about movies for a couple minutes and it won’t take you long to realize the hard-on I have for David Fincher‘s movies. One of my favorite directors, he’s made some of my favorite films including “Fight Club,” “Seven,” and my 2010 pick for movie of the year “The Social Network.” Fincher has a unique visual style that gives an adrenaline shot to films that would already have strong acting, writing etc. So I was a tad dismayed when I heard that Fincher’s next work would be the Swedish bestselling book “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Already made into a swedish film, it was being remade (americans hate reading subtitles), and if anyone was going to tackle the material I’m glad it’s Fincher, whose already knocked out amazing serial killer films including the underrated “Zodiac.”
In Sweden, journalist Mikeal Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), loses a trial against Wennerström, a powerful corporation he was set up to falsely accuse and is then charged with Libel that will cost him nearly everything he owns. He gets a call one day from Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a powerful CEO, who asks Blomkvist to solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger’s disappearance over 40 years ago which Henrik believes to have been a murder by a family member. His is then aided by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a young punk computer hacker who is also still a ward of the state.
Having read the book almost a year beforehand, and seeing the swedish movie shortly before seeing this film, it didn’t leave too much to my surprise but I was shocked to see that it stuck much closer to the book than the Swedish version. Although in my next blog post I will compare both films, this review will concentrate solely on this film as a standalone. Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara do great work as Mikael and Lisbeth and bring a good chemistry to their respective roles. All the roles are cast exceptionally well and there’s not really a bad role in the bunch. Stellan Skarsgard and Christopher Plummer turn up in typecast roles that are perfectly suited for them, While Daniel Craig is a good choice for Mikael and is enjoyable to watch he sometimes seems like he is on acting autopilot compared to Rooney Mara‘s energetic performance as Lisbeth. She definitely nails the role of the unstable, violent, loner of Lisbeth. Fincher really took a chance on Mara to play the iconic role and she does justice to the part and never crosses over into a caricature that the character could be.
Fincher once again brings his ace direction to the film. Giving the film a cold, vibrantly colored tint, the film reeks atmosphere and is perfect for the tone of the film. The cinematography is wide and desolate with it’s snowy swedish landscapes and extremely tight and claustrophobic for its characters. Fincher was the perfect choice to direct this type of film. While not his best, it certainly proves the greatness of his abilities. Many of the character moments and beats I remembered from the book are brought to life by Steve Zallian‘s well-done screenplay. Even though, sometimes the story dragged out painfully obvious story beats (Ex: Reveal of its killer) Also worth noting is Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross‘ fantastic soundtrack. They ante up their fantastic Social Network score that compliments the mood perfectly with dark, moody, sometimes uncomfortable ambiance. The film also features probably Fincher’s most ambitious opening sequence featuring liquid metal and the amazing “Immigrant Song” cover by Trent Reznor and Karen O.
The story having already been told in another medium doesn’t really warrant a remake, but this is probably the best possible American/English Language version if there was to be one. Unfortunately, the best part of many of Fincher’s films is the buddy relationship in his films. In “Seven” he had Morgan Freeman/Brad Pitt, “Fight Club” he had Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, and “Social Network” he had Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg. While Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig are fine in their roles, their relationship never completely clicked with me and felt completely natural. Fincher’s movie is a work of visual beauty, from a dark cabin in the snow to gorgeous 1960’s flashbacks, the film ultimately seems too by the numbers and never as intense or envelope-pushing as it could be without staying true to the source material. I won’t mind seeing Craig and Mara team up for the movie versions of the book’s sequels, I just hope next time the great characters of Lisbeth and Mikeal are what is most memorable.