The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2011.
Directed by David Fincher.
Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic and Geraldine James.
A journalist teams up with a troubled computer hacker to search for a woman who has been missing for forty years.
I must reiterate that I couldn’t wait for this film. After seeing the original – I was optimistic that Fincher’s authorial style and the talent involved could enhance the viewing experience that I had with the Swedish original. But at the end of the day, despite the revamp, after having seen the original – I couldn’t help but feel that I’d met this Girl before.
Infamous journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is publicly discredited and in the process of litigation he’s hired by aging philanthropist (Christopher Plummer) to aid in his search for his niece that’s been missing for forty years. During the process of his investigation he requests for a research assistant and is paired with loner, researcher (read: hacker) Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara).
David Fincher is one of the rare working auteurs in Hollywood. His distinctly dark style, suspense inducing, oppressively claustrophobic cinematic spaces and affinity for somewhat dark subject matter have developed a massive and rabid following. Se7en, Fight Club and The Social Network represent his best filmic feats and there is stylistic continuity between these great efforts and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The Swedish setting, with its endless nights, blindingly bright snow covered areas and bleak, harsh Eastern European architecture becomes great fodder for Fincher’s lens.
The Swedish original has an identifiable ‘style’ for the flashback sequences – but Fincher’s permeates throughout. The specific off colour darkness that began in Se7en, evolved in Zodiac, but defined the look of The Social Network carries through to Girl, and it’s this treatment of the source material that I was looking forward to in this film. Fincher’s treatment of violence is also a feature in is previous efforts that made me look forward to Girl. Fincher’s Zodiac contains one of the most frightening sequences of cinematic violence that I’ve experienced – and for those of you familiar with the source material there is one iconic and horrific sequence that Fincher portrays without pulling any punches. I do want to shout out the attention to detail in a violent act later in the film (without spoiling the plot) where you see what damage a golf club can do to a face – which had me audibly gasp.
The dream pairing of Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross and Fincher from the Academy award-winning score of The Social Network is back for Girl and it’s a fantastic mix of the metallic and the organic in the electronic sphere that subtly amplify the emotional trajectory of each scene. It’s another fantastic score and knowing the previous scoring of Fight Club to a comparable electronic score I wouldn’t be surprised if they received another call up from Fincher for future projects.
For me I much preferred Craig’s interpretation of Blomkvist than the original portrayal from Michael Nykvist in the Swedish version of 2009. I found Nykvist unlikeable and emotionally bland in male protagonist role. Craig is likeable, relatable and has the range to portray vulnerable in a very accomplished way. The Girl story for the opening two acts of the film really feels like following two totally divergent storylines. Craig’s performance made him as important as the audiences’ uncontrollable and overwhelming fascination with Lisbeth.
Now Rooney Mara (The Social Network) had to fill the unbelievably big acting shoes of the dynamite Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth from the Swedish Girl  and soon to be international star of Prometheus). Rapace’s Lisbeth had more of her backstory enunciated in the Swedish Girl to play to so there are some key unique differences in the portrayal. Rapace seems to be a more physically imposing character that Mara and the change in stature automatically made her more vulnerable to some of the heinous things she has to overcome. She’s also a more human Lisbeth; the slivers of back story windows into her warmth that she’s had to hide with layers and layers of physical and emotional roadblocks she’s had to erect out of a life of abuse. Mara does a fantastic job of making such an iconic role, and performance her own despite the proximity of the Swedish Girl and demands notice on the international acting scene. Lisbeth is a sought after and intense role that required an investment from Mara to give her authenticity and layers – she’s pretty mesmerising.
I really enjoyed this new interpretation of the Girl. The opening stanza of the film where the different stories are occurring to give the characters context dragged slightly for me but the dynamite 3rd act more than made up for that. My biggest regret is that I’d seen the original and was familiar with the story because it took the punch out of the major plot points/twists for me. If you’ve never seen/heard of the story and you love Fincher- you’ll really enjoy this one. If you have seen/read the original story it may feel a little been there done that Girl – and I liked not understanding what she was saying…
Blake Howard is a writer/site director/podcaster at the castleco-op.com. Follow him on Twitter here: @BLAGatCCO.