Reviews

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

4

Fincher proves he’s a Tattoo artist

Why release a Hollywood version of Stieg Larsson’s 30m-selling novel just two years on from the choice Swedish adap of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo starring Noomi Rapace as the instantly iconic title character Lisbeth Salander?

Apart, that is, from the obvious: 30m people have read the novel, a lot of them can’t be arsed to also read the film. As ABBA sagely sung, “Money, money, money…”

Because it’s directed by David Fincher. Meaning it’s a Hollywood retake in geography only (and even then, Fincher’s opted to keep the story in Sweden rather than transpose it), and meaning we’re guaranteed the kind of uncompromising, adult-themed entertainment Hollywood excelled at in the late ‘60s and ‘70s.

So welcome to the feelbad film of the year, a blockbusting thriller about sex, sexual violence and institutionalised abuse, based on a book originally entitled Men Who Hate Women, centred on an angry, subjugated, socially maladroit heroine, and shot entirely in wintry greys, hypothermic blues and jaundiced yellows. With a cold, onerous score by Trent Reznor.

The plot, for the uninitiated, sees disgraced, disgruntled journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) hired by retired industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance of his niece, Harriet (Moa Garpendal).

The killer, for she is presumed murdered, is likely a Vanger: “Thieves, misers, bullies… my family,” spits Henrik.

Eighty minutes in, Blomkvist is joined in his investigation by Lisbeth (Rooney Mara), a hacked-off hacker who hides her vulnerability beneath a carapace of piercings, tats, black leather, serrated fringes and open hostility. Together, this oddest of couples unearth a ghastly secret…

It is to Mara’s immense credit that she emerges from Rapace’s ink-black shadow to imprint her own design on Lisbeth, her wan, open face capturing each contradictory emotion roiling inside. This role, this performance, will change her life – she is literally unrecognisable from The Social Network’s preppy East Coast scholar Erica Albright.

Craig does the job, diligently, bringing gravitas and touches of humour, though lacks the everyman quality of Michael Nyqvist’s Blomkvist.

And Fincher’s direction is immaculate. His Girl might lack the propulsion of Se7en or the slow-burn desiccation-of-souls quality of Zodiac, but it is a controlled, mesmerising, beautiful thriller scarred by scenes of unshakeable brutality and breathless tension.

Verdict:

Think the US version will untangle the plot and tame the violence? Then Lisbeth’s T-shirt says it all: Fuck you, you fucking fuck. Changed ending aside, Fincher’s take is as faithful as it is fearless. And Mara rocks.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • McSerious

      Dec 13th 2011, 21:50

      To me this sounds like The Departed; excellent film but irrelevent thanks to the original.

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    • writerdave87

      Dec 14th 2011, 2:36

      I actually liked the Departed more because of its differences to the original... while I love Fincher this sounds too similar to the Swedish version for me.

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    • Ali1748

      Dec 15th 2011, 23:38

      I just can't get excited for this after seeing the original, that was a chilling masterpiece.

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    • fuzzydunlop1

      Dec 16th 2011, 3:14

      Even though I've seen the Swedish trilogy and read (and loved) the first novel, I'm still really excited about this film. Your review gives me hope.

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    • Heisenberg

      Dec 16th 2011, 9:21

      Can't wait to see this. Most people know the swedish version was excellent, but there is nothing wrong with another adaptation thrown into the mix, there will be bits that are better, bits not so good, but bring it on with gusto i say.

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    • writerdave87

      Dec 16th 2011, 18:29

      Slightly controversial perhaps, but with the exception of the performances (Rapace, Nyquist and the rest of the cast are brilliant), I didn't think the first film was particularly great. It's a fantastic story, with memorable characters brought to life by very talented actors... but not greatly directed imo. Really excited to see what Fincher's done with it, but would have preferred Rapace instead of Mara... no offence to Mara but Rapace owns that role.

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    • joker16

      Dec 17th 2011, 4:57

      @writerdave Right again. Swedish version was wildly overated. David Fincher is the King of All Film. Any thing he makes is brilliant!

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    • joker16

      Dec 21st 2011, 21:36

      4

      Just saw it and wow, David Fincher triumphs again. His version is far superior to the Swedish version on all accounts. Rooney Mara makes Lisbeth her own, bringing a vulnerability to the character that Rapace failed to deliver. No cliches this time, Fincher is a consummate pro. One of the best films of the year, no exaggeration.

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    • mrmoon0206

      Dec 28th 2011, 19:04

      4

      good film, better than the swedish version, went on a surprisingly fast pace, but i was just a tad underwhelmed when i left the cinema, maybe it was because Fincher was directing and i was expecting him to do a little more with the material. I was hoping for a seven or a Fight Club but i come away with was a panic room which ain't bad. Mara was ace though and its to bad that all the attention will probably go to Streep next year.

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    • AlisaC

      Dec 28th 2011, 21:52

      4

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    • georgeWW

      Dec 30th 2011, 0:31

      5

      Truly amazing film, one of my favourite films of 2011 just as good, if not better, than the novel. Mara played the role beautifully and I really hope that Fincher gets to come back and finish the trilogy with Craig and Mara. Not as good as the likes of se7en but still up there with some of his best efforts, rarely does a scene in a film move me or in-fact disturb me at all but that (SPOILER*) ... rape scene is certainly disturbing and did emotionally effect me more so than it did in the book, you know a film is good when it has the power to really effect you emotionally.

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    • XINIX

      Jan 13th 2012, 17:15

      Good review. I read the book and have seen both versions of the film. They're all excellent. Rooney has nailed Lisbeth more accurately. She's not a better actor; simply put, Noomi is too beautiful and the makeup didn't disguise that. I read some earlier strings on this site and was amazed at how angry MOST of the "contributors" were at the whole idea of the remake, e.g "Why do we need a Hollywood remake? Learn to read." I read quite well, but I'd rather not miss any of the visuals while I'm reading. Also "Why does Hollywood think it needs to be improved?" Who said it was an effort to "improve"? It's a remake without subtitles. The comments I'm referring to were made long before the movie was completed. Suggestion: If you're offended by the prospect of the remake, DON'T BOTHER SEEING IT!

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    • MarinaBuraga

      Jan 23rd 2012, 17:55

      The connection between the girl and Michael was so perfectly done in Swedish version, and almost none of it in the American version! From the book Michael was "the good one", whereas Lisbeth was "take everything, care for nothing", and the balance was so beautiful if I may use such a word. It showed especially after the car crash of the villain, where Michael was worried about Lisbeth killing the guy. And it also shows a clearer path to them going a bit separate ways in the end. So, I am on the Swedish version side. P.S. Starting titles in American version - looks awesome!

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    • bagia

      Oct 4th 2012, 5:59

      4

      Sex, mystery, violence and revenge combined with eerie 1940’s film-noir music, produces “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” an unforgettable film. Director David Fincher well known for his Academy Award nominated films such as Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network had tough competition when he released his 2011 American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Expectations were high as his film was up against Swedish director Niels Adren Oplec, who already had a dominant fanbase with his 2009 film adaptation of the novel by Swedish author, Steig Larsson. With a big Hollywood budget and a rock solid cast of newcomers and familiar faces such as Daniel Craig, Mr. James Bond, did Fincher do the novel justice? Suffice to say, Fincher is not one to ever let viewers down in the mystery crime thriller genre judging from his past works in Zodiac and Se7en. He once again delivers in this category with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Beautifully executed, Fincher blends both the detective and mystery aspect into the film. Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) a journalist who is thrown into the media limelight after convicted of an alleged libel case is hired by the wealthy Henrik Vanger to investigate a 40 year old murder case. His search to find the killer of Vanger’s niece is aided by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an anti-social punk goth. As pieces of the puzzle begin to unravel, Blomkvist finds himself caught in the hands of the serial killer. It was no surprise that Rooney Mara was nominated as Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her role as Lisbeth Salander. Her breakout performance showed her acting capabilities are beyond her age in comparison to today’s young Hollywood actresses. She made the film a success with her chilling gaze and her laissez-faire attitude, something that Noomi Rapace lacked in the Swedish version. With little dialogue in the film, Mara was able to convincingly depict the mysterious persona of Salander. Her acting polarizes the audience leaving viewers asking, “Who is Lisbeth Salander?” Beginning with the opening credits (eye catching clips of Mara drenched in black oil); the cinematography was mesmerizing which leads the way for the rest of the film. Fincher made the right choice to film during the cold winter months in Sweden, Switzerland, and Norway, a perfect backdrop to a mysterious murder case. There was a neo noir feel with the addition of the washed on screen lighting resembling that of hazy cigarettes throughout the film. The music was eerie and intensified as the suspense built up after each shot. Ultimately Fincher gave a true interpretation of one of the best selling international novel, a must see film that is worth seeing on the big screen.

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