The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

This Dragon Tattoo lacks intensity

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO directed by David Fincher, written by Steven Zaillian from the book by Stieg Larsson, with Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Stellan Skarsgård. A Sony Pictures release. 157 minutes. Opens Tuesday (December 20). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN

Usually, there’s no need for Hollywood to remake good movies made in another language, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is no exception.

It’s a still a taut thriller, sure, and Daniel Craig’s disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who’s trying to find out what happened to the niece of Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a wealthy industrialist, has more charisma than Swedish counterpart Michael Nyqvist’s.

But when David Fincher’s at the helm, you expect a little more style and a lot more inventiveness, especially when it comes to the bulk of the investigative work, which in Stieg Larsson’s source material takes place at a computer or in a library.

Blomkvist clicks endlessly on his laptop, and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the ingenious computer hacker and researcher he enlists to assist in the investigation, busily flips through the pages of archived newspapers. Didn’t we see that kind of filmmaking over 30 years ago when those All The President’s Men reporters spent days in the Library of Congress?

It’s especially disappointing given the hyper-intense opening credit sequence, featuring Trent Reznor’s ferocious metal screaming on the soundtrack. Nothing that follows in the actual movie matches that intensity. In fact, the rest of Reznor’s work pales compared to Jacob Groth’s music in the Swedish version, which helps imbue the original with its powerful sense of dread.

That’s what’s missing in the English-language adaptation: mood. Weird, given what Fincher achieved with Seven. There, every time investigators walk into a room you know something awful awaits them. But where the Swedish Tattoo, aided by Groth’s eerie music, makes sure the tension levels rise every time Blomqvist crosses the bridge into the Vanger family’s island compound, Fincher uses the bridge sequences purely to establish location.

Mara, as the titular troubled Tattoo girl, gives the movie great energy. She’s got just the right quality of feral fearlessness and, even though Craig has more screen time, she takes over the film in a way that justifies the title. And the story is gripping.

If you’ve seen the Swedish adaptation, this one’s superfluous. But if you’re like the majority of North Americans and have a hate-on for subtitles – Hollywood firmly believes that means most of you – go for it.

Oscar Odds

Expect best picture, director (David Fincher) and adapted screenplay nods for this American take on the Stieg Larsson novel. A strong year for actors may mean never-nominated leads Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara get squeezed out, but Stellan Skarsgård could be recognized in the supporting category. And don’t count out the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who won the award last year for Fincher’s The Social Network.

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