I’m probably one of the few people that will come into David Fincher’s take on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ‘fresh’, not knowing anything about the source material or previous film adaptation (apart from it’s immense popularity). I was gripped by Stieg Larsson’s story and heroine and by the director’s slick, icy take on this thriller, which contains not one wasted scene in 160 minutes. Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Girl With…’ series is said to be based on his own witnessing of a gang rape when he was 15 years old. The real-life girl’s name was Lisbeth (which is also the titular character in the series), and having done nothing to help the victim at the time, he has spent his life thinking about her. The winding plot takes in rape (there are a couple of truly harrowing scenes), Naziism, goth heavy metal, computer hacking and a Bible-quoting serial killer.
Fincher fought for Rooney Mara to play the lead in his film- with other actresses such as Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johanssen vying for the role- and you can see why. She has a substantial effect, and is simply captivating. Surviving on a diet of cigarettes and McDonalds Happy Meals, she shows us Lisbeth’s simmering anger but more importantly, pain and vulnerability, under her shrewd rebellion. Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist who is called in by a mysterious, ‘old money’ businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to solve the case of his missing niece, decades earlier. The setting for the majority of the film is rural Sweden in the middle of winter and the whole film is chilling in all senses: visually the shots of the snow and stark, bleak winter landscape, the chilling torture and violent sex scenes and of course, ice-queen Lisbeth. Soon, the sharp minds of Lisbeth and Mikael meet to solve the mystery of the missing girl together. The “surprise” killer part is unfortunately played so unsubtly by one of the cast members that from the moment he or she appears on screen, you just sorta know.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross work with Fincher again on the brilliant score. The now, well-known cover of ‘Immigrant Song’ featuring Karen O is used in a surprising opening sequence. I get what they were going for in this Bond-esque montage, but the tone of it felt like a luxury car commercial. The film could have done without the rom-com ending too, but I really found it to be an intense and gripping work. Fincher never falters with the pace or the narrative plotting. It’s well worth a watch- even just for Rooney Mara’s unforgettable performance.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is in cinemas today.