MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
I’m not sure why The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is such a bestselling novel, obviously it must be real page turner, but I wouldn’t know. Certainly on the basis of this film the material is nothing exceptional. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series is apparently omnipresent so I’m not quite sure why it’s passed me by as it has as I can’t remember ever seeing anyone read it on the bus, but apparently that’s what people do. There were 3 Swedish films based on the books all released in rapid succession back in 2009, the annoying titles aside, they utterly passed me by. But now with David Fincher’s name pinned onto it (who directed my film of 2010, The Social Network), I can ignore the phenomenon no longer. Despite my ambivalence, with Fincher behind the lens, I wanted to really like this.
The film begins with a rather rushed opening 20 or 30 minutes which leaves newcomers to the series feeling a little lost at first but ultimately it’s not too difficult to follow. Much has been said about the opening title sequence and I have to say my first thought was it felt completely bizarre and feels unjustified and as the film ended it still felt like it was missing the tone of the film completely. You get the feeling Fincher and some art directors had some really slick ideas, which it is, but it’s also ridiculously out of place after a 30 second opening scene which really didn’t earn this sort of introduction.
For people as detached from civilization as myself, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo turns out to be a crime thriller. Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist recently sued for a large amount of money for libel who is then employed by a retired CEO (Christopher Plummer) to write his memoirs for him and also investigate the death of his niece who was murdered some 40 years ago. Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is a 23 year old goth, diagnosed with mental illness and abused by the man meant to be taking care of her. Rape and revenge ensue, and it’s pretty gruesome. She’s also a computer hacker and eventually finds herself helping Blomkvist with his case which inevitably appears to be rather dark and thrilling.
I can’t compare it to any original work, film or novel, and I can’t say it never gripped me, but it didn’t do so consistently. Rooney Mara really doesn’t have the range for this role, a role which should be hugely dense and twisted but you get very little emotional variety. Craig also doesn’t seem to do a great deal. Really, the film lacks Fincher’s great character moments and substitutes it for a load of plot. No one really talks about what’s going on, it all just plays out. I’m really starting to get the feeling Daniel Craig is an actor whose image people have of his ability really outweighs his actual ability, which isn’t nearly as extensive as some like to think.
What we have is a film with an extremely dark tone which I quite liked for an extremely long amount of time (over 2 and half hours). Fihcher does seem to struggle to get his work under, or at least closer, to a more sensible 2 hour mark and personally I feel a lot of plot could have been tightened and cut for something a lot more thrilling.
Whether it’s a necessary English language remake, I can’t really comment. But what I can say is the use of the English language is rather peculiar. It’s set in Swedish but spoken in English so obviously you are expected to appreciate the magical power of cinematic translation. But is it really necessary to give some characters a Swedish accent while others speak in their regular voice? It’s perplexing and unnecessary. Additionally, important newspaper headlines are shown in English but the article in Swedish. Why not just put it all in English and let us suspend disbelief and get on with it, rather than alienating the viewer even more?
Oh, and count the Apple logos. Go on, dare you. Actually don’t because not only is that an impossible task but once you start noticing it you can’t stop. This film was proudly brought to you by Apple. Occasionally Sony as well. But mainly Apple. Apple seem to be omnipresent product placers on cinema screens and as anyone who watches a large amount of new releases will notice, seldom does a film go by without an annoying Apple logo lit up and centre screen. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo isn’t the first or last film to do this, but it well and truly pushed me over the edge.
I can understand why some people will love this but personally I’m not convinced the story is as absolutely fantastic as the novel’s sales figures like to suggest. I enjoyed it in parts, but considering Fincher’s ability as a story teller, I’m sure there’s better material for him to spend his time working on than the inevitable follow ups.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is out now in the UK and US. Running Time 158 mins. Certificate 18 (UK).
Comments and feedback are always welcome or just give the film a rating by using the stars at the top.
Review by David Rank