It's to Hollywood's detriment that what passes for "originality" these days is adapting a best-selling thriller that was filmed only two years ago in its native Sweden, suggesting simultaneously that somehow non-American films don't cut it as they should in the US (it must be those darned subtitles), and that it takes Hollywood to do proper justice to a best-seller. Of course, the fact that it's David Fincher, the closest modern Hollywood has to an edgy auteur able to work within the system, directing is enough to suggest The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn't going to be a half-baked hack job.

     It isn't. Niels Arden Oplev's 2009 adaptation of the first book in the late Stieg Larsson's phenomenally successful Millennium trilogy had been originally conceived as a TV series before the book became a global hit, and looked like it, up to a point. In that sense, even though screenwriter Steven Zaillian's script follows mostly the same beats as Mr. Oplev's film - a possibly psychotic hacker and a disgraced journalist are hired to rummage around the past of a powerful industrial family searching for the solution to a 40-year old mystery - , this is a whole other beast. Mr. Fincher brings to it his cerebral slickness, turning it into a curious combination of Zodiac's slow-burn procedural intensity and Seven's disquieting moods; but there's also the feeling that the director isn't stretching by any means, merely finding new corners in a territory he has already staked out and knows pretty well.

     What he brings to it that the Swedish version lacks is a pervasive sense of skating on very thin ice that will at some point thaw, revealing a closet full of skeletons no one really wants dug up. This is coupled with the fluid omnipresence of technology throughout (people are constantly trying to keep secrets that technology prevents them from keeping), and with much help from the pulsing score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and Jeff Cronenweth's icy cinematography, turns it into a more dystopian, Big-Brotherish, ominous mood that was mostly absent by the allegiance to the mystery plot that guided Mr. Oplev's film. It's almost as if Mr. Fincher couldn't care less about the plot as long as he could focus on the mood, and his usual sharp perfectionism proves him right.

     There is, however, one seriously bum note where Mr. Fincher's version is inferior to Mr. Oplev's, and that is in its female lead. Rooney Mara would have always had a hard time rising up to Noomi Rapace's career-making performance as hacker Lisbeth Salander, but hers is a disappointingly one-note performance that focuses too much on the character's anti-social nature and never pierces through to the character's humanity, making her more of a concept than a person. This is even more of a misjudgement when set against the uniformly excellent performances of the remaining cast (and Daniel Craig proves to be an excellent fit for Blomqvist) and the generally smart, disquieting mood of the film.

Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara; Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson, Geraldine James, Goran Visnjic, Donald Sumpter, Ulf Friberg.
     Director, David Fincher; screenplay, Steven Zaillian, from the novel by Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; cinematography, Jeff Cronenweth (colour, digital intermediate by Light Iron Digital, widescreen); music, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross; production designer, Donald Graham Burt; costume designer, Trish Summerville; editors, Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall; producers, Ole Søndberg, Søren Stærmose, Scott Rudin, Ceán Chaffin (Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Yellow Bird, Scott Rudin Productions), USA/Sweden, 2011, 158 minutes. 
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Columbia Tristar Warner screening room (Lisbon), January 10th 2012. 


Popular Posts