Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

bill bodkin looks at David Fincher’s remake …

Plot: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and cyberpunk investigator (Lisbeth Salander) team up to uncover the 40-plus-year mystery surrounding a teenage girl in the Swedish countryside.

When you’re watching a film that’s a remake of a film that you really enjoy, it’s hard to not to compare the two films in your mind. This is especially true in the case of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a remake of a film that was released just two years ago.

 

And throughout the first 20 minutes of David Fincher’s version, I found myself constantly comparing the two films. And while comparing, I found myself quite disappointed with this new American version. Fincher is truly one of the cinematic masters of our time — the guy created a movie about Facebook and made it one of the most compelling dramas of the past decade. So how could he misfire on a film that has such rich cinematic and literary source material? The tone, the pacing, the acting — none of it felt Fincher-esque. It felt rushed, almost antiseptic, as if the film was hurrying to get the introductions of our two main characters out of the way.

Yet once Craig’s Mikael Blomkvist enters the starkly snowy compound of Henrik Vagner (Christopher Plummer), the comparisons began to fade into the ether. The subtle score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross began to plant seeds of fear, suspicion, tension and drama. Then came the visuals of the of the Vagner compound — the pure white snow, beautiful in its emptiness, only heightened the emotions of the music.

And then when Plummer’s Henrik begins explaining the mystery of his niece Harriet to Craig’s Mikael, the comparisons stop. You became enveloped by the film — the story, the characters, the performances, all captivated and entranced me.

 

And even though I knew the outcome of the film, I found myself at the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. And therein lies the genius of David Fincher — he’s able to take a familiar story and make it his own unique vision. He’s able to satisfy and challenge the preconceptions a fan of the material has and also create something that someone unfamiliar to the story can easily latch onto and seek their teeth into.

However, not all the credit can go to Fincher alone. Baring as much weight and artistic responsibility as the diretor is Rooney Mara, assuming the seminal role of Lisbeth Salander. Salander was perfectly acted by Noomi Rapace (Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows) in 2009, so perfectly that many thought no one could do this role justice but her. However, Mara not only did the role justice, but she gives it her own, unique spin — much like her co-star Craig did when he assumed the role of James Bond in 2006. They each took an iconic character and made them their own, highlighting emotional and physical nuances not brought to the screen before.

Speaking of Craig, he does another excellent job here, proving he’s more than just 007. Overlooked this year for his strong performances in less-than-critically acclaimed films like Dream House and Cowboys And Aliens, Craig is terrific as the jaded journalist Blomkvist. Had this been a film based around just his character, it would’ve still been excellent.

When the credit rolls on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo — whether you’re familiar the books, the movies or you’ve never heard of the film outside of the trailers — you’re going to walk away feeling you’ve experienced a unique, original and awesome film.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

1 COMMENT

    • oh that is a tough one. honestly, you should watch both, but start with the original. this way you can fully appreciate what david fincher did with his version. also, it’ll show you just how good of an actress noomi rapace is. but if it’s not available to rent, you won’t be doing yourself any harm in checking the fincher version out in theaters.