Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
I must begin this review by stating that I was totally unfamiliar with the general premise behind author Stieg Larsson’s posthumously published series of novels and their subsequent Swedish film adaptations. It was with a completely unbiased opinion then with which I approached David Fincher’s Hollywood re-fashioning then with no expectations to be dashed that here again was another bland diluted Americanisation- as with adaptations of the Danish crime thriller The Killing or Swedish vampire movie Let The Right One In- of a familiar cult classic. Instead I was able to view the film for exactly what it is which is a superior thriller albeit one directed by Fincher starring Daniel Craig and with a soundtrack by Trent Reznor which features Karen O doing Led Zeppelin over the dizzying but compelling opening sequence. Although at over two and a half hours long it may seem overindulgent Fincher and his cast provide enough momentum to hold the audience even if the central story has several improbable plot strands and the murder which the action hinges on doesn’t engender much sympathy or intrigue- I am unfamiliar with the plot but had unearthed a major facet at its core less than half way through- and is perhaps the films weakest link.
The plot centres on the relationship between journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig)- Fincher wisely kept the original characters names as well as the Swedish location- recently involved in a libel case against a wealthy and powerful industrialist which he lost and in the process brought himself to the precipice of bankruptcy. Enter an old adversary of Blomkvist’s nemesis (Christopher Plummer) who offers him financial retribution and career salvation if he solves the mystery of his niece’s disappearance nearly forty years previously. At this point Blomkvist enlists the services of a research assistant named Lisbeth (Myra Rooney) whose methods-and lifestyle- may be unconventional but she is a savant with the technological know how he lacks even though they seem to reach the same conclusions at the same time despite deploying different methods. A plot involving rape, revenge, corruption, sinister Nazis, dysfunctional families and deceit then unfolds. The mystery at the centre of the narrative is really not too interesting however but the characterisations are intriguing whilst the developing relationship bears scrutiny being held together by tightly written dialogue and convincing performances and a natural chemistry between the two main protagonists.
After the mystery of the missing girl has been solved the back story involving the corrupt industrialist who almost bankrupted Blomkvist takes centre stage and the film moves into a different area entirely changing not only the narrative but the style of the film completely. The pace shifts up a gear and in less capable hands could appear tacked on and superfluous but Fincher is too skilful a director to allow this so it ties the film up neatly even if the ending sequence prepares the audience for the inevitable sequel.
As stated before never having seen the Swedish version nor having read any of the novels I have nothing to compare this film to and as such must admit it held its own more than admirably. Fincher handles his actors with consummate skill and the cinematography lends itself to the Swedish atmospherics beautifully whilst the soundtrack throbs and pulses in synchronicity with perfectly executed action sequences and the icy chill of the darkness which pervades throughout. As a thriller on its own it is more than adequate and withstands criticisms of being an unnecessary addition to an already overly full genre by being sleek, sexy and darkly compelling. I may now get around to actually reading one of the novels.