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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

March 25, 2013

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Director: David Fincher
Actors: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgård

Girl with Dragon Tattoo

Synopsis: Disgraced Stockholm journalist, Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig), is recruited by industry magnate, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), to look into the forty-year long mystery of his niece’s disappearance. Blomqvist recruits punk computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), to assist in the investigation….

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo finds a class filmmaker at the top of his game. Working with overfamiliar source material – not just the hugely popular Stieg Larsson novel from which the film is based, but from a previous Swedish movie version – Fincher sets himself a task to see if he can do justice to, if not transcend, the expectations that come with that familiarity – and on that account, it’s an undoubted success.

The material is tailor-made for Fincher, and in many respects, it feels a summation of his work over the previous fifteen years. He revels in appropriating the minutiae and exhilaration of research (Zodiac), there’s the complex, cris-crossing narrative (The Social Network), a sinister air of dread over the serial killer revelations (Se7en), and a palette and sound design which echo Fight Club and Panic Room. It’s certainly an improvement on the Swedish adaptation of the same novel – by and large dispensing with that version’s faux punk gothicism and ‘in your face’ sadism, for a more muted portrait of the various sensational characters and incidents in the narrative. It’s a shame this version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo didn’t have the epic running time of the Swedish one – hence Fincher having to rush through the discoveries of the serial killer’s biblical ‘trail’, although even then you have to admire the craft of Fincher as he cuts a swift and literate montage to show how Lisbeth cracks those murders.

My only slight puzzlement is why the film – having converted the story to English language, presumably for the novel’s huge Anglophone audience – didn’t set about fully re-imagining the story to a different setting – say perhaps the Pacific Northwest or the Highlands of Scotland. I suppose it’s because everyone remembers the names, places and ‘ambience’ of the novel as so quintessentially Swedish, and once one assimilates this dramatic universe of English spoken with cod-Swedish accents (Craig, interestingly, doesn’t even bother trying one) it’s easy to relax into the gripping story. (March 2013)

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