Verdict: 4 / 5
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been swathed in praise since the Swedes adapted Stieg Larson’s book in 2009. Just two years later Hollywood has commandeered the title, appointing David Fincher, recognized for his eminently dark films, like Fight Club, Zodiac, and Se7en, as director. Thankfully the “American” version doesn’t do anything to compromise the roots of the story, in fact, it probably does a lot more to stay true to the book. Fincher’s film is sombre, dark, warped, harsh, bleak and brutal.
Remakes are subject to a lot of debate, especially when the previous films are still fresh in everyone’s memory. Fincher was very brave to tackle this movie so soon, especially when you consider all the awards the “Swedish version” raked in. It was never going to be easy to convince a group of die-hard fans that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo deserves a remake. Over and above all this, the decision to replace Noomi Rapace with Mara Rooney raised the eyebrows of many sceptics.
The good news is that Fincher’s movie, in my opinion, is superior to Neil Arden Opley’s one, as is Mara Rooney’s performance to Noomi Rapace’s. The original was excellent and deserved its critical acclaim, but it’s nowhere near as haunting or as polished as Fincher’s. The Se7en director brings a lot more atmosphere and style to the mystery than before, in what seems like the perfect pairing of filmmaker and source material.
Regurgitating the same plot, the story sees a wealthy businessman, Henrik Vanger, hire a skilled, broke and desperate reporter, Mikael Blomkvist, to re-examine an unsolved mystery. After nearly 40 years the disappearance of his niece continues to haunt Henrik. Mikael soon discovers that the Vanger family hold many deep and hidden secrets. He then enlists the help of Lisbeth Salander, a strange, antisocial but talented computer hacker. Together the two join strengths in a clever game of “whodunit”.
It’s an exceptionally well-made film filled with suspense and mystery. However, I must make mention that the notorious rape scene and its shocking aftermath will leave you discomfited. There are images in the film that will probably never leave the back of your eyeballs. It’s that creepy and shocking! Very little is left up to the imagination here. Fincher makes a point of shocking audiences with the butchered bodies of young woman massacred in unspeakable ways. The frozen, cold and icy terrain of Sweden goes hand-in-hand with the dark subject matter here.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the ideal showcase for Fincher’s directing chops. At times, it seems as if Fincher and his crew studied the few faults of the original and purposely aimed to eliminate them. There is a lot more to be said about the great acting by Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright and Stellan Skarsgard, who all manage to fill their characters perfectly, especially Rooney Mara, who delivers a star-making performance. Special mention should also be made of the great opening sequence – which seems like a sequence cut straight from a James Bond movie.