Sunday 18 December 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo review

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (18, 158 mins)
Director: David Fincher
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Though it would be nice to think that this English language remake of the hit Swedish thriller has been made for any reason other than financial, with over 60 million books sold there’s a very sizable audience out there of people who couldn’t be bothered to read subtitles when the original trilogy was released in cinemas last year, so that plainly isn’t the case.

The basics are identical, so it’s in the details that the justification of whether or not this ought to exist lies. The addition of demented title credits that play out like an oil-slicked Bond sequence to a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song is an interesting start.

It even retains the Swedish setting, which throws up the daft situation of having Swedish characters being played by Americans, Canadians, Swedes and Brits, speaking to each other in English with Swedish accents, expect star Daniel Craig, who more or less stays English.

Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist for the acclaimed Millennium magazine (which lent its name to the title of Stieg Larsson’s original trilogy of books), who is tasked by an elderly, and very wealthy, businessman (Christopher Plummer) to look into the mystery surrounding his niece, who was murdered on the family’s private island 40 years before.

He believes someone in the family killed her but no one has ever been convicted, and he would like one more investigation of the events while he’s still around. But Blomkvist was only hired after a report by investigator and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) confirmed he was right for the job.

Lisbeth has her own problems; with her guardian gravely ill and her finances held in trust, she is brutally assaulted by the man controlling her money. By the time she and Mikael come together, with Lisbeth as his research assistant, we know exactly what she’s capable of.

Like the Swedish version, it’s all about the sensational character of Salander, an avenging punk angel brought to life in a startling performance by the relatively unknown Mara. Craig, so often solid but boring, is very good too, straight talking but not physically intimidating or able, which lends him some vulnerability.

A quietly insistent score twists the tension of what is, in the main, a talky affair, as Mikael interviews a sprawling collection of shady family members on the search for clues. As he does so, it takes on the dimensions of a classic murder mystery, full of files, photos and puzzle solving, ground that director David Fincher has been over before in his meticulous Zodiac.

It gets its point across without hanging about, though you could also never accuse it of rattling along, not with that running time. Yet it’s never dry or dull, done with enough grit and visual style to ensure it holds the attention. It’s on a more ambitious scale than its forebear, and though a little less scuzzily graphic than first time round, no punches are pulled.

In the credit column is a streamlining of all the Millennium shenanigans, meaning we don’t have to sit through a lot of office politics or the fact that Mikael is due to go to prison. But like the original film, it’s guilty of trundling on way too long once it seems to have peaked, and there’s also a curious switch in the timeline in the latter stages that dampens the impact of Lisbeth’s characterisation.

And if you’ve seen the original you’ll know every bend on the road, meaning this lands somewhere between workable and pointless. Though it’s the same film, it’s still a fine one, and you can probably add a star if you haven’t seen the Swedish version.


  1. He might have given unnaturally overhyped Se7en and "Social Network"...But this one s truly amazing....
    Definitely,a collector's item

  2. The American version of the film is an insult to brilliant Swedish version. Why does Rooney Mara have all this hype? She only plays the character to the outward effect but it is not filled from inside. How do people not notice that? Mara is nowhere near the brilliancy of Noomi Rapace and the way Mara plays her character makes Lisbeth rather unsympathetic. Actress Mara and Lisbeth in her interpretation are just unpleasantly cynical and obnoxiious. Do not bother to watch this crap if you have seen the Swedish film and supremely talented Noomi Rapace.