Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
PLOT: Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is hired by reclusive Swedish industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to solve the forty year-old disappearance of his niece, Harriet. Heís aided by an enigmatic investigator, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) Ė a young hacker with a tortured history. Together, the two manage to tie Harrietís disappearance together with a string of brutal murders that have been ravaging the countryside for half a century.
REVIEW: David Fincherís variation on THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is easily one of the most hotly anticipated films of the holiday season. The late Stieg Larssonís series of Blomkvist/Salander mysteries are three of the most widely read novels of the last decade, and they were previously adapted into a wildly popular series of Swedish films, that made a star out of leading lady Noomi Rapace.
Considering the indelible impression Rapace made in the previous films, many assumed that Fincher was crazy to embark on his own adaptation (in collaboration with producer-extraordinaire Scott Rudin). The film was going to live or die depending on the casting of Salander, and when Rooney Mara (who had a small, but important role in THE SOCIAL NETWORK) was announced for the part, many questioned his decision.
Now that people are actually getting to see the film, the general impression is that Fincher was right all along, and Mara was an inspired choice. Considering how well Rapace played the role, fans of the series (Iím one of them) will be pleased to know that under Fincherís direction, Maraís approach is far from being a carbon copy. While I think Rapaceís Salander is more dangerous than Maraís, she nonetheless brings a feral quality to the role which is hers alone. Rapace always struck me as physically strong, which isnít the way Salander was described in the books (rather, sheís lithe and cunning) , and Mara looks more like the type of person who could be (wrongly) perceived by others as being weak. In the books, Salander is constantly being attacked by people that underestimate her due to her appearance, and Mara, in a way, lived out that aspect of Salander when she received the role and was attacked by the press as being unsuitable. Sheís spot-on, and perhaps even a contender for a best actress nomination.
By comparison, Daniel Craig takes a backseat, despite getting more screen time than Mara. This is similar to the novels, as Salander tended to dominate the stories once she was introduced. Blomkvist is a much more passive character than Craigís James Bond, and he wisely avoids bringing the rough-hewn Bond approach to this role, playing him as a more sensitive, intellectual type- who actually has to rely on the gutsier Salander for protection once they find themselves embroiled in danger.
The rest of the cast is similarly ideal - with special mention due to Stellan Skarsgard as Martin Vanger - who dominates a good chunk of the ending. I also got a big smile on my face seeing eighties action-villain extraordinaire Steven Berkoff show up (in a rare sympathetic role) as Henrik Vangerís trusted lawyer, who acts as a good between for Blomkvist and the family. It has to be said, 82 year-old Christopher Plummer fills Vangerís shoes perfectly; perhaps not as perfectly as Max Von Sydow would have, but still. Plummerís bound to get an Oscar nomination this year, the only question is whether it will be for this or BEGINNERS.
Of course, the real star of the show is director David Fincher. While this is probably the most mainstream thing heís done since THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, it fits right into his wheelhouse. After all, who better to bring a story of Swedish sadism to life than the director of SE7EN? Fans of the book will no doubt be relieved to hear that Fincher DOES NOT tone down the grislier aspects of the book. In fact, Iíd wager he lingers on the violence more than Niels Arden Oplev did in the Swedish version.
Pairing up with Steven Zaillian, who adapted the novel into a screenplay, Fincher adheres very closely to the source novel- almost too closely. If any aspect of the film disappoints me, itís that I hoped Fincher might take a few more risks with the material- but this is faithful to a fault. Other than a few bits of business, this is a remarkably close adaptation, meaning this is a lengthy film (157 minutes according to the press kit).
Fincher brings two things to the film that distinguishes it from the solid Swedish adaptation. One is the great cinematography courtesy of Jeff Cronenweth, with this looking like THE SOCIAL NETWORK by way of SE7EN mixed with a bit of Ingmar Bergman (appropriate to the Swedish setting). The other is the absolutely amazing score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which gives the film a pulse and energy it might not have had otherwise. I especially loved their use of Reznorís cover (with Karen O) of Led Zeppelinís ĎImmigrant Songí over the Bond-like opening credits. Fantastic.
I really canít imagine a better adaptation of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO than this, and I certainly expect it to be a major success- which pretty much guarantees adaptations of the next two novels. The only question is whether Fincher will return. One hopes, as but the type heís done with Larssonís work, this could be an iconic series.