The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
As background for this review, I have both read the book and seen the original Swedish film, so this is my third go around with this story. And I have to say that David Fincher`s adaptation is very faithful to its source material as well as being a huge step up from the Swedish version. It also happens to be one of the best films of the year.
Fincher`s film feels much more cinematic and much more complete than the first one did. With the Swedish film, I felt like they tried their best to get all the important elements into the film, but it still felt fragmented and didn’t quite piece together properly. But with this Hollywood version, Steve Zallian’s script flows beautifully and everything that needs to be included is. And best of all, it all fits together. It doesn’t feel like they are tacking things on. Everything here makes sense; its a cohesive story.
Even the small details of the investigation are given their due here, like the photograph analysis, the ‘phone numbers’, the Wanger records. Fincher doesn’t just skimp over these details. Instead, he analyzes them meticulously, but also in a way that is entertaining to the audience. Its really a treat to watch this material in the hands of a modern master of cinema like Fincher.
Not only was impressed by how well the story was handled, I also loved the look and feel of this movie. The tone fits exactly as it should; brooding yet natural. Fincher really puts us into the icy north of Sweden while giving us an Agatha Christie feel to Hedeby Island, albeit much more sinister. The cinematography here is wonderful. Not only does the island feel like a real place, but the camera also works to the benefit of the character; Lisbeth Salander in particular. The way the camera follows her through hallways and gives us interesting angles on her adds to the mystery of her very alienated character.
Let’s talk about Lisbeth for a second. In the Swedish film, the titular girl with the dragon tattoo was played by Noomi Rapace, and I marveled at how spot on she was for the role. Therefore I was skeptical of anyone else in the role, but Rooney Mara went above and beyond. She really sunk her teeth into Lisbeth and made her one of the most interesting screen characters this year. She and Daniel Craig, as Mikael Blomqvist, also have a wonderful chemistry for a pair of very different people.
I have to profess myself to be very impressed with this movie. Its certainly not just a remake of the Swedish film for those who don’t like subtitles. Its an improvement in almost every way. It manages to maintain almost everything from the novel (with a few changes here and there, most notably the final reveal) and does so in a way which is clear to anyone unfamiliar with the story. Performances are excellent, art direction is excellent, sound mixing is very immersive, and the tone and atmosphere is damn near perfect. I might argue that there is a slight case of Return of the King syndrome where the falling action after the climax goes on for too long, but that’s really the only noticeable flaw. Fincher and company have made one spectacular mystery thriller.