Film Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (MA)

Directed by: David Fincher

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Christopher Plummer

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

A US version of a Swedish film that is only two years old? Hollywood tried something like this before when it Amercianised the perfectly fine (and utterly hilarious) British film Death at a Funeral just three years after its release to disastrous results. Except this time, Tattoo already has phenomenal book sales, a cult following, critical success and the original film was a hit. So why bother revisiting?

Well for one thing, it is right up director David Fincher’s alley. Death, torture, obsession and the dark side (sometimes literally; you often need a torch to get through his films) of human nature are all things he has touched on and reveled in in his career. Fincher seems to be the type to turn his nose up at such blatant cash grabbing – so he must have been confident he could bring something new to the table.

And he does, with his fascinatingly dark style, and flare for storytelling, he is able to bring us a compelling film. If only he had made this version first.

In the midst of a scandal and court proceedings, disgraced and broke journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is hired by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the disappearance of his niece 40 years ago. It is a cold case that has baffled police and locals for decades and haunts Vanger, particularly once a year when he receives a gift identical to one he used to get from his niece before she went missing.

Meanwhile, social outcast, tattooed, pierced and damaged 23-year-old Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) struggles with a newly appointed and abusive guardian who is left in charge of her finances due to her violent and troubled past. The things he does to her in exchange for occasional access to a chunk of her own money are unmentionable, but this tough cookie gets her revenge.

When Mikhael discovers Lisbeth, a computer whiz, was hired by Vanger to hack into his computer and create a thorough report on his background, he utilises her and her expertise to solve  the case, sparking an unconventional relationship. As the pair get closer to the truth, their bond grows stronger.

While the original Tattoo roped me in with its fascinating and bombastic lead female character and the intriguing structure of the story, the subsequent two failed to impress me. What began as a cracking mystery that drew two disparate and unlikely allies together, the sequels lacked that driving force of a central plot tying it all together.

Luckily for the viewer, the story of this first instalment is so potent and compelling that it is not a chore to sit through a second time. Fincher hardly veers from the foundations of the original, but does the seemingly impossible of building suspense in a story that we have seen and know the outcome of.

With the departure of Noomi Rapace, there are some big, iconic shoes for relative newcomer Rooney Mara (seen briefly but memorable in The Social Network) to fill. Going in to Fincher’s version with a new Lisbeth is like when we went in to see Hannibal starring Julianne Moore in the role that Jodie Foster won an oscar for. But Mara nails it with an equally raw performance.

The proceedings are familiar but Fincher’s ultra dark spin and utter confidence in his own storytelling abilities injects a bit of life into the film. Even the worst Fincher film is a ripper of a flick. The real challenge for Fincher, if he agrees to or is able to continue the franchise, is how he can lift the second two stories so they are not drawn out, overlong misfires like the originals.

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One Response to “Film Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”

  1. The trio of Mara, Craig and Fincher here are excellent, and really help the film to reach its full potential! Great review though, well done, give mine a look when you have the chance! http://conordcfc.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/film-review-the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-2/

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