Directed by David Fincher
Written by Steven Zaillian
A couple years ago the “Millennium Trilogy” made waves around the globe as a set of best selling novels by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. I sadly never got around to reading any of them. However, I did get a chance to see the trilogy of film adaptations which followed. This statement may seen normal to some, but I fear for most Americans that it comes of as much more surprising that the trilogy has already been translated, so to speak, onto the silver screen. Noomi Rapace played the lead as the girl with the dragon tattoo and I greatly enjoyed the first film, whereas the next two in the series saw diminishing returns. Remakes are a touchy subject because a lot of people are against them, while others probably don’t realize certain films are remakes. This one is an interesting situation however with acclaimed director David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) at the helm.
Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is coming off of an unfortunate legal problem where he was convicted of libel. Looking for something different to take the heat off his magazine, Millennium, Blomkvist accepts an offer from businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), who wants him to utilize his keen investigative mind to solve a 40 year old mystery: the disappearance and assumed murder of his niece, Harriet. When Blomkvist arrives on the family island in Northern Sweden he finds a cold reception from the Vanger family. But with the help of the very different and troubled Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who is also a phenomenal researcher, Blomkvist begins to uncover the mystery that will either save his livelihood, or end it.
The title of the film is “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, which suggests she may very well be the main character, but her’s is not the main storyline, which is why when Fincher and company try as hard as they do to make her mytserious, it doesn’t quite come off right. There are moments, not even scenes, which are intermittently inserted which feature Salander, but it began to be a bit distracting, especially when you weren’t quite sure why she was important to the story for much of the first half of the film. The editing, apart from how it handled Lisbeth, was good and aided the thriller aspect of the film. In addition the film’s cinematography is very good. DoP Jeff Cronenweth creates a nice mood, especially with the rich colors used in the flashbacks as opposed the the seemingly dull and morose shots of Sweden in the wintertime, which in and of itself is quite beautiful. Also, the score by Ross and Reznor is subtle and ambient in most places, which suits the tense thriller aspect of the film, but it does not do anything spectacular. The best part may have been their rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, which was used during the bizarre title sequence a la the Bond series. It was a great sequence, but I call it bizarre because it didn’t seem to fit into the film naturally. It felt forced.
Overall the acting was pretty good, but there were some exceptions. Skarsgaard, for example, seemed disinterested and I did not buy him as Martin. Craig was solid as a rock, which is how I have always viewed him as an actor. He emotes more than anyone else on screen except maybe Plummer, whose character, while important, does not get a whole lot of screen time. Craig also seems to be the only one to hit on the small comedic asides, which for the most part felt slightly out of place within the film. Rooney Mara was good as well, though she began to feel very one note in her performance. Going back to Fincher trying too hard to make Lisbeth mysterious in his editing, he is not aided by Mara’s attempts to make her even more mysterious. That being said, I think this was a great career choice and big break for Mara’s career. I don’t see her as this type of actress, but I am hoping that the visibility and attention that comes from this film will get her in more films because I do think she is a promising performer.
Ultimately, I am a sucker for the research film, and the editing suits the film and the story, making it a tense investigation. But for such a tense thriller it did seem a bit over long with a slow beginning and an ending which dragged. There seemed to be an overload of information and events which were used to supposedly humanize the characters, but they failed to really connect in that manner, instead leaving the film at least 30 minutes longer and perhaps Zaillian and Fincher were too faithful to the book when they should have taken the greatness of the general story and made it their own (disclaimer: I have not read Stieg Larsson’s book). It wasn’t to the point that I felt a remake was warranted, and I would even say the original exceeds Fincher’s version, though not by a whole lot. It does pain me that while exiting the theater I heard the comment, “Well, at least I didn’t have to read subtitles.” It still remains that Larsson imagined a spectacular story and that alone carries the film. Apart from that there is nothing much that stands above it just being a solid, polished film.