Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (18) / Directed by: David Fincher / Written by: Steven Zaillian / Starring: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright / Release date: December 26th
David Fincher’s interpretation of Stieg Larsson’s novel is sleek, stylish cinema that does the source material justice. The Swedish version, directed by Niels Arden Oplev, was quite straightforward in its presentation, lacking cinematic impact and lifted up by the leading lady. Noomi Rapace’s iconic performance as Lisbeth Salander in the original was always going to be tough to contend with but Rooney Mara is suitably solid in the role.
Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a journalist investigating the disappearance of wealthy business man Henrik Vanger’s niece Harriet who disappeared over forty years ago. The Vanger family live in isolation on an island, each in their own separate magnificent homes; filled with years of history and scandal. As Blomkvist delves deeper into the disappearance he unearths a series of murders that he teams up with Lisbeth Salander to solve. Larsson’s themes of abuse, anti-Semitism and capitalism are wrapped up within the mystery of the main story and dealt with in some unsettling scenes.
From the extravagant opening credits sequence where man and machine appear on the screen with black splashes and smooth silver accompanied by an excellent version of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song the senses are attacked with startling and stylish imagery. You are in Fincher territory and it is devastatingly beautiful and affecting to watch.
The caffeine fuelled, chain-smoking hacker Salander is satisfyingly cool to watch in action as she zooms around on her motorbike and stands up for herself in an extremely well-crafted fight scene. Blomkvist is an intelligent investigator whose attire and methods are messy but endearingly so. Craig approaches the role by taking a step back and is understated enough to allow Mara to take centre stage. Their relationship begins as professional and as bonds are built moves into a caring, romantic one that is explored but subtly enough not to take away from the crux of the story.
Snowy landscapes, grand architecture and grey tinges inhabit the present dark world that Lisbeth and Mikael are exploring and are contrasted well with the past of sepia hues where the memories of a young Harriet come to life. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are in charge of the soundtrack that adds the atmospheric dread needed and is full of low pulsating notes. Inclusion of Enya’s Orinoco Flow to accompany a torture scene may sound strangely juxtaposed but it works to great effect.
Going in I was convinced I wouldn’t like the remake, how could Mara live up to Rapace’s performance? As great as the story is, for me it’s all about “The Girl” and the mystery surrounding her troubled soul. The character is interpreted differently in each film, but the essence of Lisbeth’s strength and vulnerability is intact, and Mara doesn’t disappoint in the role. Even though men do some terrible things to Lisbeth, not all men are portrayed as evil which is nicely shown through the relationships she has with Blomkvist and a former male guardian. She only seeks revenge on those who do wrong; including a particularly graphic scene where vengeance is taken by inflicting pain on a man who raped her. Lisbeth brandishing a dildo as a weapon, unsheathing it like a sword ready for battle was always going to be a striking image no matter what language it was presented in but Fincher adds his own steely signature to this tense yet satisfying scene.
A sumptuously dark thriller that will have you gripped for the most part, the characters have depth and the ensemble cast is sterling.
Expected rating: 6 out of 10