Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Sony Pictures
Now Showing

I'm not sure if the Swedes have an equivalent term for deja vu but there's an overwhelming sense of “been here, seen that” when watching David Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Then again, that's to be expected with a too-soon remake of the 2009 Swedish film which will still be fresh in many peoples minds, particularly those not perturbed by subtitles (the US version no doubt partly made for those who are).

Admittedly Fincher brings a greater directorial flare to the material, based on the bestselling novel by late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, than did Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev. But despite some minor tweaking (including the film's final moments), Fincher's Dragon Tattoo (penned by Steven Zaillian) doesn't do a whole lot to set itself apart (although the opening credit sequence is pretty darn impressive).

Of course, those who haven't seen the Swedish film, or read the first book in Larsson's Millennium trilogy, will find this Dragon Tattoo to be a very impressive thriller; a serial killer procedural that moves swiftly (despite its 158 minute running time) and with enough twists, violence and perversion to sate various appetites.

The plot (for those who don't know) concerns an investigation by disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) into the 40-year disappearance of Harriet Vanger; niece of the elderly Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) who believes the then-16-year-old was murdered by one of the members of his wealthy family.

Blomqvist is later joined in his investigation by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an anti-social computer hacker who has been a ward of the State since she was 10. Plenty pierced and tattooed (with the eponymous dragon), Lisbeth, abused and misused by the system, has little time for authority and a love-hate relationship (mostly hate) with men.

When the pair uncover a serial killer whose crimes pre-date Harriet's disappearance, more than a shameful family affiliation with Nazism is found to be lurking in the Vanger family closet.

Wisely casting a relative unknown in Rooney Mara (best known for that brilliant opening scene in Fincher's The Social Network), is one of the smarter choices the producers of the remake have made.

So good was Swedish actress Noomi Rapace's interpretation of Larsson's anti-heroine, an A-list actress in goth-punk drag just wouldn't have cut it. Mara's Lisbeth is smaller and seemingly more vulnerable than Rapace's but she gives as good as she gets, verbally as well as physically.

And surprisingly, the casting of Daniel Craig also works. Initially I had thought the presence of the current James Bond would be a distraction but he is effective as the non-action half of the duo. One quibble though: while the rest of the cast (including Stellan Skarsgard, Joely Richardson, and an under used Robin Wright) speak English with soft Swedish accents, Craig doesn't even attempt one.

But, as I say, that's a minor quibble for a film that is coolly and crisply shot (by Jeff Cronenweth, and on location in Sweden), uniformally well acted and a slick entertainment overall.

While I don't feel there is any reason (other than commercial, of course) for US versions of the remaining two Millennium films, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest, apparently Sony will go ahead with them and, more surprisingly, they are rumoured to be directed, back-to-back, by Fincher.

The upside of that scenario is, given the deteriorating quality of the subsequent Swedish versions, Fincher's take on 'Fire' and 'Hornets' Nest' will more easily stand apart as his own creations.

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