Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Directed by: David Fincher
Written by:Steve Zaillian
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellen Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Steven Berkoff
Released: January 12, 2012
Grade: A-

Hollywood remakes are nothing new but I can’t ever recall one being released so close to the original.  The Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was released in Australian on 25 March 2010.  It went on to become one of the most successful foreign language films ever at our box-office with 16 weeks inside the top 20 and a total take of $5.5m.

This leads into an interesting question – how successful will this new version be?  I have my doubts.  If you were one of the many who saw the original two years ago, how keen are you to see the exact same story told again?  Very few changes have been made to the screenplay and I have to admit that knowing all the twists did lessen the film-going experience.  It doesn’t have the same suspense factor.

If you didn’t see the original movie, what was your reason?  If you were perturbed by the subtitles then yes, you’ll find your problems have been solved.  You can watch this film without worrying about words flashing by at the bottom of the screen (made even more difficult for those sitting in the front row).  If you had another reason, well, I don’t know if I can help you.  The premise, the performances and the film’s graphic nature are all fairly similar.

I’m tempted to “cut and paste” the plot overview that I wrote as part of my review in 2010.  For those unfamiliar with the tale, renowned journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) has been approached by the wealthy Henrik Vanger (Plummer) and asked to investigate the death of Henrik’s niece 40 years ago.  He is reluctant at first but in return, Henrik promises valuable information that will help clear Mikael’s name in a nasty, public lawsuit.

In solving the mystery, Mikael will be assisted by an unlikely person – a young computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Mara).  To use the term “assisted” is an understatement.  Throughout much of the film, it feels like Lisbeth is doing most of the work.  An attractive develops between the pair and Lisbeth senses that her troubled life may have turned in a positive direction.

In reviewing this film, I’m going to ignore the Swedish version (which was also great) and judge it on its own merits.  In that regard, it’s very good.  The story is interesting and the performances are strong.  Rooney Mara (The Social Network) seemed an odd choice when the cast was first announced but she dominates with her powerful portrayal of the feisty yet vulnerable Lisbeth Salander.

I wished director David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac) had of tackled something more original with his follow up to the brilliant The Social Network.  That said, this is still a slick, gripping thriller and Fincher’s stylish fingerprints can be seen all the way through.  From the flashy opening credits to the unexpected use of Enya’s Orinoco Flow, Fincher knows how to hold your attention.  It’s something he’s always been good at.