Cornerhouse LiveWire Young Critic Jay Crosbie reviews The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Ever since Fincher got his hands on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo we’ve all predicted that this would be the definitive version of the films. This was further emphasised when that trailer was released all those months ago. It looked like the tension was going to be wrapped so tight we were barely going to make it out of the cinema alive. Now, finally all the months of anticipation later, it arrives on the silver screen on a cold winter’s day. However, is it as good as predicted? Or has Fincher just made the lazy director’s remake of the 2009 version?
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo follows Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) the recently shamed co-owner of Millennium magazine who leaves his comfortable lifestyle to venture to Hedeby Island to help Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger. Finding the work too intense to deal with on his own, he requests a research assistant in the form of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) to help him work out if Harriet was murdered on that fateful day.
You have to hand it to Fincher, he’s really tried his utmost to retain the feel of the novel; which is an incredibly dark and sombre read. The first thing immediately noticeable is the complete lack of all things colour, like the life of the film has been drained out before your very eyes and you’ve been left with just a monochromatic spectacle of tones. Really there is very little colour in this film, except from the blood that paints the walls. That backed with dark lighting, and narrow ominous corridors and a consistent blizzard backdrop, you can almost feel the dread seep into your veins, just as Fincher intends.
Not only did Lisbeth Salander steal the source piece, but Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of her stole the original film. Now it’s Rooney Mara’s shot at embodying Lisbeth Salander, a woman who’s a victim of rape, misogynistic tendencies, and is in the grips of insanity. Originally, it’s quite a shock to see Mara handle herself in such a manner. I’m so used to seeing her as the fresh faced American female protagonist, desperately fighting off the monster of the hour, yet still retaining an aura of femininity, that I almost forgot it was her. Which is no bad thing. Mara really invests herself in Lisbeth (those piercings aren’t fake y’know) and it pays off, Mara is just as believable as Rapace; the way she flirts with insanity is just as unnerving as Rapace did in 2009 and surprisingly, you really do care for her as hard as that is to believe (especially when you see what she does to some of the characters in the film) and even behind the rough exterior you can appreciate Mara’s portrayal as a woman who has become the victim of the patriarchal society around her. When she’s on screen, nothing else should be: she holds the film on her shoulders and forces you to the edges of your seat, which is remarkable and thrilling stuff
However, Fincher just doesn’t know when to call it a day. The film drags on for another 20 to 30 minutes after the plot has been concluded. Yes this gives us time to see Lisbeth develop as a character post the traumatic incidents on the island but by this point it’s just unnecessary. She’s been fully developed and it is just filler used to bulk up the film and drag it to its ultimate conclusion. It actually ruins the perfect pacing that Fincher has created before hand, not once do you pay attention to the clock as you’re too involved in the story unfolding before your very eyes but as soon as that’s over, you keep checking your watch, hoping the film will end. It does. 30 minutes later.
Contrastingly to Mara, I found Craig’s performance to be, well, a tad dull. I don’t know if it’s just in comparison to Mara’s performance but he never felt like a huge presence, nor as if he was engaging with the source material. He most certainly didn’t feel like a man shamed by his recent career move and that the well being of his life was balanced on this job. He seemed to just frown a lot and smoke cigarettes.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo isn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it as a great film. It’s merely a good one that is fuelled by a very good performance by Mara. It seems the hype of having Fincher as named director and the overwhelming critical adoration of both the novel and the original film has left the idea bank a little dry when it came for Fincher to have his turn in the lime light. Everything you see you could have predicted. Nothing is directed that could have surprised anyone (even the scenes of sexual violence are shot very similarly the Swedish one) and the film is basically a more cinematically friendly version of the Swedish film that came out only 18 or so months ago. However, Fincher has made a film that fortunately evokes pathos not bathos, which at the end of it all, is the most important thing.