From acclaimed director David Fincher comes this English-language adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s 2005 novel of the same name. Having been previously adapted in the Swedish language by Niels Arden Oplev, Fincher’s version serves as a entry point to the series for those unwilling to bother with the mundane atrocity that is subtitling. The previous statement may seem baffling, but it’s apparently the opinion of the movie-going public, and it’s hard to discredit that viewpoint. Look at Tomas Alfredon’s original Swedish Let the Right One In and Matt Reeves’ Hollywood remake Let Me In, the latter may have been a thoroughly pointless incarnation of the excellent original that failed to capture more than 10-15% of the former’s gravitas, but it grossed a whole bunch more dollars.
However, the key difference between The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and films like Let Me In is one simple factor – David Fincher. Here is a director who rarely puts a foot wrong (I said ‘rarely’, no one’s perfect. Oh, and for the record I liked Benjamin Button) and his mere attachment to the project got my, and many others’, hopes up.
And those hopes have been vindicated, Fincher may have glammed up and Hollywoodised this Nordic Noir crime thriller, but he’s retained plenty of the atmosphere of the original, and has also injected some of his own style into the piece.
First and foremost, the editing (both sound and visual) stands out as the best I’ve seen this entire year. Seamlessly jumping between the plots of Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), almost every cut is sublime. The visuals themselves feel restrained, repressed, the occasional flash of brilliance regularly pegged back by the overarching style of consistent efficiency. It looks good, but not interesting, everything is handled with a modicum of enthusiasm and far more practicality. It’s also very dark, the bathing of almost every scene in shadows means it treads close to the line of dullness, thankfully never crossing it. However, these criticisms are not replicated when considering the soundwork, which is explosive, clever and thoroughly immersive. From the drone of Lisbeth’s motorcycle as it passes through a tunnel, to the cold wind that batters Blomkvist’s Hedestad residence, it all forms into one constant brooding hum, often overlapping to positive effect.
One exception to the lack of visual flare is the awesome title sequence, which took me by complete surprise. It’s very Bond-esque, with Trent Reznor’s modernised version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Immigrant Song’ accompanying a CGI montage that blends together many of the movie’s themes. The title sequence itself seems to have had a bit of a resurgence of late, and the way Fincher’s sets up a booming tempo for the rest of the film depicts just how effective they can be.
The acting is excellent across the board, Mara was never going to top Noomi Rapace but does her best, Craig looks the part but is likewise overshadowed by Michael Nyqvist. On the other hand, the supporting actors may be an improvement – the casting is first rate, with Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Robin Wright and Yorick van Wageningen all delivering pitch-perfect performances. One major gripe is the inconsistency of accents; some of the actors put on distinctly Scandinavian tones while others abstain, like Daniel Craig who uses his usual voice. This seems to be the trend at the moment – think Hugo – and it’s utterly nonsensical.
In comparison to the original film, the story feels less dramatic, the characters are a touch flatter, and the ending is boorish, wrong and goes on for a full twenty minutes. To reiterate the point, Niels Arden Oplev’s version is superior, but Fincher’s is a commendable effort. If you’re looking to enter the filmic The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, opt for the original, unless you have an allergy to reading subtitles. Fans of the series already will enjoy making comparisons between the two, either way it’s well worth a watch.