Saturday, 14 January 2012

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO review

Released a mere two years after the Swedish original, David Fincher's take on Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is out now in cinemas. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...


After losing a libel case that ruins his journalistic credibility, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is hired by a wealthy industrialist to solve the murder of his niece, Harriet, 40 years ago. As Blomkvist starts to dig deeper into the family's history and uncover the truth, he takes on the talented but introverted Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) as his research assistant.


Following the enormous amount of buzz bestowed upon the first version of The Girl With... I checked it out when it was released on DVD all the way back in 2010 but, apart from a few choice scenes, had forgotten most of it. It's not that I didn't like the Noomi Rapace version, but it was a thriller bogged down by an unforgiving structure and had potential to be improved upon. As a rule I'm opposed to the idea of remakes of the sole grounds of ditching the subtitles, but with David Fincher involved there was a chance that a new version could provide some imagery that was a little more indelible.

And it certainly is that. From sight of the first trailer and poster we knew this was going to be stylish, but in the flesh (as it were), it manages to be so much more. It was a smart move to cast a relative unknown as the title character and Rooney Mara has certainly put her all into carving her own, separate version of the character. The piercings and infamous tattoo may still be there, but there's something more fragile but yet deadly about Lisbeth this time around. Introduced to her as a cold, anti-social, aspergic character, she doesn't soften much throughout the course of the film, but we warm to her through a better understanding of her actions. The victim of a horrible assault in the first third of the film, we become tied to her through an appreciation of her expertly delivered revenge act.


As Mikael Blomkvist, Daniel Craig is supposedly playing a Swede along with everyone else but has retained his usual English accent. It's a weird quirk that's never referred to, but when you've got a film set in Sweden with everyone speaking English, it doesn't really matter. When talks of the remake (or whatever you want to call it) first emerged, questions were asked about why the story wasn't being moved out of Sweden. Well, because this story is about Sweden. The unforgiving weather, the well established oligarchial families, the compromises being met between the old and the new.

It's a film about opposites colliding. A packet of smokes and a Happy Meal, truth and lies, new Sweden and old Sweden, a smart casual combo and a t-shirt that says "fuck you, you fucking fuck". It's these collisions that drive the story forward and the mystery towards its conclusion. The main flaw that the story has as a whole is that it takes far too long to put the two lead characters together. It must be well past the hour mark before Blomkvist and Salander actually share any screen time, but when they do the whole story really kicks into gear. He comes to her with an offer that, given we've seen the extent she'll go to to get her revenge, is one we know she's not going to turn down; "I want you to help me find a killer of women".


Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's soundtrack may fail to be as much of a revelatory experience as their work on The Social Network, but that was always going to be a hard act to follow. It's still a wholly unique soundscape that works brilliantly within the framework of the film, but save the opening Led Zeppelin cover (Immigration Song featuring Karen O.), there's no standout segment. On that topic, the opening credit sequence is outstanding, getting the Bond link out of the way before you've even had time to notice.

An artistic endeavour that was worth risking, there's clear optimism that this is just part one of three, otherwise why bother with the extended, perfunctory last chapter? Personally, I'd like to see Mikael and Lisbeth return, as Craig and Mara work wonderfully together on screen. In this film the actual mystery of the death of Harriet isn't that important or indeed memorable, but the two lead characters of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander certainly are.


A slightly over long thriller that buzzes with style and raw sexuality, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo should appeal to fans of David Fincher and the original series of films alike.


Verdict

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