28 December 2011
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO- Review
This is one small problem with David Fincher's adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel, but it is part of a larger problem with this second version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The story is, as you might suspect, the same as in the Swedish-language version, but it's now spoken in English. It's still set in Sweden, however, as a scrupulous financial journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, has his reputation ruined by a very public libel lawsuit. The publicity around this gets Blomkvist involved in the affairs of Henrik Vanger, and his powerful industrialist family, and also brings him onto the same path as a troubled, but brilliant hacker, named Lisbeth Salander.
If you remember Let Me In, the perfectly serviceable but understandably forgettable English language version of Let The Right One In, you might remember how it largely stuck to the same beats as Tomas Alfredson's film, while transplanting the action to a darker version of an 80s Amblin movie, and thus floated itself just above being pointless or unnecessary. David Fincher's spin on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has a serious case of the Let-Me-Ins, because it doesn't even bother to relocate the story. It is unerringly faithful to Larsson's novel, even more so than the intentionally televisual Swedish version.
Fincher, for his part, directs the film as only he can, in the most cinematic way. It's textbook Fincher, in the way that textbook Fincher is still as exciting and visually engaging as most directors' very best efforts. He certainly gets spectacular performances out of Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig and Christopher Plummer, and the film is, on a superficial level, very trim and pacy. But it's also two and a half hours long, and the unwieldy length is not all to do with Zaillian's script. Furthermore, there are some unwelcome Americanisms that creep into the Swedish setting. While I realise how silly it sounds to infer this of Fincher, the man who directed Fight Club, the bigger budget of $90 million (to the earlier film's $13 million) must have had something to do with the curious placement of Coca Cola, McDonalds and Apple products throughout the film.
On a less commercial level, the film just feels too glossy. Fincher's version is best when dramatising Blomkvist's investigations, in much the same way as he made Facebook exciting in The Social Network, but he also opens up the film with a completely incongruous title sequence. It's very reminiscent of a Bond title sequence, and you wonder if it was conceived before or after Craig signed on for top billing. The only one who has completely the right idea is Mara, whose Lisbeth is just as good as, if not quite better than, that of the excellent Noomi Rapace. She completely commits to her role, and her submersion in the character is really quite stunning, and shockingly inscrutable.
Craig makes a more engaging and sympathetic Blomkvist than Michael Nyqvist was, and while I don't remember anything about the Henrik in the Swedish version, I really enjoyed Plummer's soft-spoken portrayal of the character here. But while the new version is more comparable to the book than the Swedish adaptation, it is more of a throwaway effort than either. I got the sense that Fincher must have some spectacular ideas for the two other Millennium movies that he intends to make, and that this one was just the necessary introduction to Lisbeth and Blomkvist, setting up for the meat of our heroine's backstory in part two. Goodness knows that he can't possibly get away with the repetitive and loyal adaptation he gives us here, especially as the Swedish versions went downhill after Niels Arden Oplev's Dragon Tattoo.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, why not share your comments below? I'm especially interested in hearing from anybody else who has read the book, or watched the Swedish adaptations.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.