The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) Review
If you have read Stieg Larsson's book or have seen the Swedish film directed by Niels Arden Oplev, you will realize many things about David Fincher's adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. First and foremost is that it is an unnecessary film. While much more stylized then the 2009 Swedish film, Fincher's version really brings out the flaws in the book much more than that film. However, if you have no history with the book or films, this turns out to be a solid mystery film.
The film follows Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) as he tries to uncover a 36 year old murder of a great-niece of a rich CEO (Christopher Plummer). In order to solve the mystery, however, Mikael will need to enlist the help of a strange computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara).
The film begins with a very innovative take on the book. It initially appears Fincher will be able to work beyond the boundaries set by the novel as he includes a well constructed cold opening and one of the most memorable opening title sequences set to a striking cover of "Immigrant Song" by Karen O and Trent Reznor (whose score doesn't leave as much of an impact as it did in The Social Network). Fincher continues to make great stylistic choice after great stylistic choice as he brings his own artistic palette to material that is suited perfectly too it. It's dark, grungy and ultimately fascinating. This also means a much grittier version of the story and some of the more violent scenes (especially the rape scenes) are hard to sit through, but you have to give credit to Fincher for giving it his all.
The problem with the film emerges when it becomes clear that Fincher is going to just stick with the storyline of the book. This results with a film that should have ended 30 minutes sooner than it did. The mystery is solved but we are given much more character development after the conclusion of the conflict that just seems excessive. Departing from a beloved source material is a major risk, but it's one that should have been taken here and Fincher didn't.
The one aspect about the film that clearly rises above its predecessor is the cast. All of the actors are on top of their game. Daniel Craig gives a very subtle performance and I surprisingly never thought of him as Daniel Craig which is shocking considering the character he is playing doesn't have many characteristics that make him a real individual. Rooney Mara, however, is the true star of the film. She clearly gave her all to the performance and it shows as she creates a character that is completely unrecognizable from the performances she has given in the past (even though small and few). You can never take your eyes off her and she proves she will go to any length to pull of the performance (both in physical and mental ways).
The supporting cast of the film actually stands out. In the Swedish version, I couldn't tell you anything about the supporting performances. They are completely unmemorable. Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard and Robin Wright all give performances that I will be able to remember. Plummer brings a great sense of bravura to a performance that doesn't have much to give. Stellan Skarsgard provides a set of skills to an important role that the actor in the Swedish film could not, and Robin Wright takes in all of the advantage of the added screentime her character receives.
Fincher and company do as much as they can to make an entertaining mystery film out of material that doesn't support it. While they don't pull this off, it is a noble attempt.
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