Tuesday, 27 December 2011

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO ****½

USA/Sweden/UK/Germany: David Fincher, 2011


David Fincher's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO provides a fascinating re-adaptation of the original source novel which both retains and changes the plot to make the material its own. Crucially, Fincher's version (like the Niels Arden Oplev Swedish film adaptation before it) stands on its own terms as a gripping and compelling crime thriller that makes over zealous anxiety around which version (novel, Swedish or Anglicised film adaptation) is the definitive one, largely academic.

The biggest problem Fincher's film has is the inherent one of being an English language film set adrift in the Swedish backdrop of Stieg Larsson's bestselling book. This is particularly noticeable in Daniel Craig's performance as Mikael Blomkvist. Fine actor he may be but hearing Craig deliver his lines in an unaffected English accent atop of a smorgasbord of faux Scandinavian dialects is unquestionably jarring and a flaw that I'm not convinced the film ever fully recovers from. Although it should be noted cast members such as Christopher Plummer (Henrik Vanger), Robin Wright (Erica Berger) and most emphatically Rooney Mara (Lisbeth Salander) are note perfect no matter the language.

However, despite being a huge fan of Larsson's novel and the original Swedish film adaptation I went into this film with an open mind and fortunately there is plenty to be impressed by. The opening credit sequence - despite being a separate entity from the aesthetic of the film - is an awesome display of Fincher's audio/visual sensibilities and acts as a mission statement that distinguishes this version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO from any other. Yes this film has a noticeably bigger budget, it has a more distinct style, more technical depth than its Swedish counter-part but the greatest success of Fincher's film is its combination of a confident script by Steven Zaillian anchored around Rooney Mara's fresh portrayal of Lisbeth Salander.

The titular 'girl with the dragon tattoo' is undeniably the most interesting and well realised aspect of Larsson's fiction but that makes for no guarantee of an equally mesmerising vision on screen. Just as Noomi Rapace's inimitable 'Lisbeth' performance elevated the Swedish film and its two sequels, if Mara had faltered it would have sunk Fincher's film. Thankfully, unequivocally, she delivered with a different but no less iconic representation of Lisbeth Salander faithful in spirit to the character on the page. Moreover, Fincher's tender, nay more romantic handling of the Blomkvist and Salander relationship on screen is far closer to how I imagined it as written in the novel. The disappearance of Harriet Vanger and this unlikely duo's investigation into the circumstances surrounding it were always the framing plot device of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (in all its variations). The true core of this story plays out in the slow, conflictory and ultimately doomed friendship that Lisbeth forms with Mikael. That Fincher recognises this and allows it to gradually but surely come to the fore is this film's enduring strength.

The Count's Verdict: Have no fear - this 'Hollywood' retelling of a now familiar literary phenomenon can co-exist with both book and Swedish film without prejudice. Indeed, it adds to the entertaining and enthralling story that is THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

1 comment:

the danman can said...

Couldn't have put it better myself.

My rating was 1/2 a * shy of yours however.