The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 22nd January 2012
No, this isn’t one of those pandering, pointless American remakes, designed to make European arthouse fare palatable to the subtitle-averse masses (like the squirm-inducing Dinner for Schmucks and the redundant Let Me In).
While lovers of the novels and the original Swedish film may understandably be sceptical, just two words validate this rendition: David Fincher. The visionary director of Se7en, Zodiac and latterly the Oscar-winning The Social Network knows more than a thing or two about portraying the dark side of human existence, and with a top-notch cast of mainly non-American actors he assembles a surprisingly worthy English-language adaptation of the hugely popular story.
True, the original is a hard act to follow. An involved, twisting story of a disgraced journalist solving a decades-old murder, and his enigmatic tattooed and pierced accomplice who is battling her own very sinister demons, the prototype proved an unexpected foreign-language success with English audiences.
The two-and-a-half-hour remake gives us a handsomer Blomkvist in Daniel Craig and an outstanding performance from The Social Network‘s unassuming Rooney Mara. Fans will possibly henceforth be divided into Team Noomi vs Team Rooney, but whichever side you choose, the slight but feisty Mara gets full credit for embracing all elements of Lisbeth Salandar’s painful upbringing and broken heart.
The film is faithfully still set in Sweden, the actors speaking in vaguely Scandinavian accents (odd, but it works), and delivering their lines naturalistically framed by Fincher’s trademark atmospheric photography.
It is as tense and horrifying as the original, while somehow more accessible and (despite the length and plottyness) comprehensible. Rather than “unnecessary”, this remake is instead an exciting and impressive tribute.