THE first part in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy has already had the screen treatment courtesy of the Swede’s, directed by Niels Arden Oplev. But the American cavalry led by David Fincher is here to give the world its interpretation of the popular crime novel.
The film starts off with the icy blast of a Scandinavian blizzard, as Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (charged with scoring the film) give us a chillingly slick, updated version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song.’ Complete with Karen O’s androgynous vocals (foreshadowing Lisbeth’s appearance), the credits featuring a leather lace pattern on a variety of cool grey’s puts James Bond’s extravagant opening credits in the shade.
Talking of James Bond, current 007 Daniel Craig opens the film in his role as Journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who is successfully sued for libel and finds himself disgraced. But as the title suggest this isn’t a film about Blomkvist but The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Rooney Mara is tasked with the difficult job of bettering Noomi Rapace who played Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish adaptation.
But Mara’s waiflike figure is colder than the snowy Swedish backdrop this film is set against. Anyone that came into make comparisons with Rapace and Salander were frozen stiff with Mara delivering a screen stealing performance as the emotionally broken Lisbeth.
Fincher does a good job of keeping his two leads separate for a good proportion of the film cutting between Blomkvist and Salander. As when they do come together both Craig and Mara have a screen chemistry that leaves you uncomfortable but also gripped. Craig provides the perfect anchor for Mara’s brooding Lisbeth.
The direction is busy and sometimes feels a bit choppy but for most of the film it feels tense and taut. The part where this film is let down is the investigative phase. I understand that Steven Zaillian tried to stay as true to the book as possible, but a bit more clarity and emphasis on the investigation wouldn’t have gone amiss, having said that Fincher knows how to draw the audience out of its comfort zone.
One scene in particular where Mikael is being tortured in a basement dungeon, whilst Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’ plays serenely in the background, leaves you disorientated and disturbed. Only halted by Lisbeth’s intervention with a golf swing Elin Nordegren would have been proud of.
The biggest disappointment of the film was Stellan Skarsgård as Martin Vagner, even those who had not read the book or seen the previous film could see him falling in place as the villain from a mile away. In fact he may as well have worn a devil costume with little horns and carried a pitchfork with him.
Luckily though the film isn’t about Martin Vagner, but about Lisbeth Salander, and Mara seems to have invested herself wholly into her character. Craig does a sterling job of simply letting her shine whilst providing a good foil in key situations.
Dark and cool, twisted and slick, but most importantly The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is gripping, with a cast and crew that delivers a tight script.