Released: Monday 26th December 2011
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard and Joey Richardson.
Running Time: 157 mins
It’s typical for every single film fan to become a snob towards an American remake of a foreign film or an American adaptation of a foreign book. Some will say it’s for money, others because of general audience ignorance towards subtitles. But a small minority will stand up for any particular remake to say that it’s a chance to improve upon or correct the mistakes of the previous adaptation.
David Fincher made his name for making the ultimate serial killer film “Se7en” (1995), with his monochrome palette and seedy, depraved look at the human soul. He, then, found a new sense of maturity with his little seen masterpiece “Zodiac” (2007) – it was the JFK of serial killer films by focusing more on the investigation and the characters surrounding killings than the serial killer himself. Coming off the box-office and critical success of “The Social Network” (2010) – a film about socializing through the internet and computers – David Fincher has the accomplish tools to create his own version of Stig Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
With a wonderful anti-James Bond opening credit sequence with the irresistible cover version of Led Zeppelins “Immigrant Song”; The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo starts with Mikael Blomkvist being charged with libelling billionaire Hans Wennerstrom. Blomkvist is given the opportunity to investigate an unsolved 40-year-old murder of Harriet Vanger by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). On the other side of Stockholm, Lisabeth Salander (Rooney Mara) has to adjust to her new guardian Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen). Whilst working for Milton Security, Salander is soon assigned with Blomqvist to solve Vanger’s 40-year-old mystery.
This plot has been in the public consciousness over the past 2 years, so it must’ve been difficult for David Fincher and scriptwriter Steven Zaillian to create their own version of events. They both succeed with aplomb; The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a riveting two and half-hours of Swedish noir that will stick with you for a very long time.
Sure, this material isn’t a huge stretch for Fincher, but he’s relishing crafting an engaging, adult murder mystery that will no doubt challenge viewers with it’s bleak view of sadism, anti-Semitism and cruelty towards woman; he never backs away from the harsh reality of this frozen wasteland of morality. In the era of the “Saw” franchise and “Hostel” where torture, pain and suffering is shown to be a cool video game; Fincher realizes the audience have to understand how these diabolical characters operate in order for them to feel the horror and pain the characters are inflicting on others.
Much publicity was created when Rooney Mara won the coveted role of Lisabeth Salander and, here, she wholly justifies it. This is the performance of the year. Mara’s Lisabeth is girl whose been betrayed by her government for the majority of her life and when the only man she every trusted was taken away from her, she becomes reclusive and hostile towards other men, including Blomkvist. Mara, brilliantly, balances Lisabeth’s aggressiveness and vulnerability as she’s becoming more involved with “normal life” and as her relationship with Blomkvist evolves. At the same time, here’s a chilly, violent underpinning to Mara’s performance that makes her violent acts appear more visceral and damaging.
Daniel Craig gracefully gives Mara all the attention her performance needs, but he’s no slouch. Craig uses his cool screen presence and persona to anchor the film. He’s the voice of calm reason during the investigation and brings a certain amount of credibility to the role of Mikael Blomkvist, which helps as the film veers off into dark territory. Another mention should go to Yorick van Wageningen for his portrayal of Nils Bjurman, because he doesn’t go over the top, the sadism of Bjurman is simmering below the surface – he way he looks and devours Salander is horrifying and sickening – is a great piece of acting.
With a running time of 157 minutes, TGWTDT does have “The Lord Of Rings” syndrome – multiple endings. The last 10 minutes of TGWTDT drag a little as Fincher and Zaillian tie up all the loose end (the only fault in Zaillian’s brilliant adaptation) and there could’ve more definitive scenes between Blomkvist and Salander to let their relationship grow a little bit more. The inevitable director’s cut release will be definite must-see for the fans of this adaptation.
Despite the doubters of this American adaptation, Fincher and co have proved everyone it’s possible that Hollywood can create a faithful and brilliant film adaptation of a much-loved book. Let’s hope the sequels can sustain this level of brilliance. Mara wears the tattoos with pride.