The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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As soon as this remake of the popular Swedish movie was announced you could hear the hissing of dissent, the sharpening of knives and the flicking of thesaurus pages as people tried to find new words to construct old and familiar complaints. Yet there was also something different about this one, something that made this seem a bit more interesting than many other remakes from the last few years. David Fincher was directing it. A man known for sticking to his own particular vision was filming a remake of a film that had already been hailed by many fans as a modern classic. What could he bring to the table to make this more than just one more unnecessary remake.

I’m going to have to run the risk of upsetting an entire country now and wonder aloud just what the hell is going on with Swedish cinema that I’m not getting? First we had the wildly overpraised Let The Right One In and then we had the wildly overpraised The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (a film I flippantly surmised as being nothing more than a Miss Marple tale with some eye-wincing dildo content). Something about both of these movies seems to have captured the hearts and minds of moviegoers yet, in my view, all they do is repackage a number of well-worn ideas and concepts. Don’t get me wrong, they repackage these things very well but they’re certainly not the stunningly original works that some try to claim they are. Which may explain why, in both cases, I have ended up preferring the remakes. Because the remakes can’t be showered with such praise. The remakes are the underdogs and they actually end up coming out on top. In my view.

I’m not going to repeat the plot of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo here, you can just get the basics that everyone seems to have been sold on. Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist hired by a man (Christopher Plummer) to solve a mystery that stretches decades into the past. Rooney Mara plays Lisbeth Salander, a supersmart and very unique young woman with as many problems as she has talents and a forthright metrosexuality that shows up in a number of scenes allowing middle-class audiences to applaud their own acceptance of this figure as an unusual lead character before calming down and transforming into something altogether more suiting to a lady hoping to keep the audience onside as a big finale develops. There’s also Stellan Skarsgard being as great as always and fine support from Stephen Berkoff, Robin Wright and many others.

I think that this is the weakest film I have seen yet from David Fincher and that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re going to watch the movie because you’re a fan of the director, as I am. Having said that, it’s still a very good movie that benefits from a number of excellent performances (Daniel Craig does okay in the lead role but the movie is lifted by a fantastic turn from Rooney Mara, who makes Lisbeth somehow just as tough and troubled as she was in the original film yet also slightly less self-absorbed, you can actually warm to her even as the defences remain raised all around her, and did I mention the great Stellan Skarsgard?) and, most significantly of all, a coating of that Fincher style audiences have seen in movies as varied as Panic Room, Fight Club, Zodiac, etc.

Fincher suits this material and knows just how to make it even more distressing and nasty, while also keeping it acceptable for the mainstream audience that he now finds himself able to cater for. The highlight may be the audio-visual mix of the opening credit sequence (that great cover of “Immigrant Song” accompanied by imagery seemingly created from tar – literally “pitch black” from near the very start) but the rest still has a lot more to appreciate this time around than the original movie did.

DIRECTOR: DAVID FINCHER
WRITER: STEVEN ZAILLIAN (BASED ON THE NOVEL BY STIEG LARSSON)
STARS: DANIEL CRAIG, ROONEY MARA, STELLAN SKARSGARD, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, STEPHEN BERKOFF, ROBIN WRIGHT,
RUNTIME: 158 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA/UK/SWEDEN/GERMANY

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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