THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Dir. David Fincher, 2011)
Despite the fact that the opening title sequence, a montage of shiny black bondage imagery synched to Karen O and Trent Reznor’s blaring cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, is as in-your-face as the director can get, this is oddly the least stylish of David Fincher’s films.
It’s clear that Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillion have set out to do a second adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel (the 1st in the “Millenium” trilogy), rather than a remake of the 2009 Swedish film, but it so often follows the storyline in the same icy manner that it feels unshakably redundant.
That is, unless you absolutely can’t stand subtitles and will only watch movies in English. Then this is the version for you.
Taking a break from Bond, Daniel Craig takes on the part that Michael Nyqvist (who can be seen currently as the villain in the new MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie) originally played in the Swedish THE GIRL… series, financial magazine reporter Mikael Blomkvist, who accepts an offer from wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate a 40 year old disappearance right after he loses a libel suit.
In order to do research on the long missing person, Plummer’s great niece Harriet (a teenager at the time of abduction), Craig is provided with a guest house on the fictional Hedeby Island in Stockholm that is inhabited by the suspicious members of the family, including an extra creepy Stellan Skarsgård. Plummer calls his relations: “The most detestable collection of people you will ever meet.” When we learn secrets of Nazi connections and sexual abuse, we know that’s no exaggeration.
Craig is being investigated himself, by the punk bad-ass hacker Lisbeth Salander played by Rooney Mara, who does a great job matching Noomi Rapace’s pointed portrayal. Mara is definitely the best thing about this one.
Craig and Mara soon start working together on the case, in procedural sequences that echo Fincher’s ZODIAC, and getting it on – in sex scenes way steamier than the original’s, so it wins on that front.
This version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO has moments of sublimity, but never gels enough to have an identity of its own. Craig, who plausibly plays a character way less confident than the iconic 007, and Mara have palpable chemistry, but when it comes down to the love triangle ending, involving a wooden Robin Wright waiting in the wings, we never feel like the leads are supposed to be together anyway so the emotional impact falls flat.
I know there will be plenty of folks who will go to see this movie who haven’t seen the original Swedish one, and they will likely be more satisfied with this one than I am. I mean, it has higher production values, “name” actors, and, yes, it is in English.
However, for folks already familiar with this material, these elements have the unfortunate effect of reducing Larsson’s scenarios into just slightly above average American thriller fare.