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For the past 10 years or so, Hollywood has openly embraced
the succulent cash grab that is the remake, and for better or for worse, it is
here to stay. But was another film version of Stieg Larsson’s serial-murder
mystery THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO entirely necessary? The original
Swedish movie was a huge hit overseas and made box-office waves with North
American audiences as well. So why go see an English-language edition? In
summation: David Fincher.
Fincher has wonderfully adapted Larsson’s novel into a dark
and brooding 158-minute epic that resonates stylistically somewhere between his
SE7EN and ZODIAC, leaning more heavily toward the latter. Fincher and original
Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev’s takes on DRAGON TATTOO work individually
for distinct reasons, and to say which is superior would be like choosing
between ALIEN and ALIENS; they’re both great films which are radically
different yet similar, stemming from the same source.
This time around, scandalized reporter Mikael Blomkvist is
played wonderfully by Daniel Craig (though what’s with the British accent in
Sweden?) and Rooney Mara flawlessly pulls off the now famously troubled and
tortured hacker/investigator Lisbeth Salander. The film for the most part
remains faithful to the source material, while setting itself apart from its
Swedish counterpart. Fincher’s version (scripted by Steven Zaillian) does have
a steadier pulse without compromising the complicated density of the book’s
plot. We unfortunately lose the original’s stark European flavor in favor of a
slicker Hollywood production, but we’re nonetheless in capable hands, and
Fincher doesn’t disappoint.
Jeff Cronenweth’s cinematography is fluid and grand while
always maintaining an aura of dread. The cast is stellar and bang-on:
Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger, Robin Wright as Erika Berger and Stellan
Skarsgård as Martin Vanger. Even WARLOCK’s Julian Sands makes a return to
cinema as the young Henrik. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross return from THE
SOCIAL NETWORK to again create an incredible score that easily gets under the
skin, adding another level of rich atmosphere.
Given the hard-R bent of the material, Fincher orchestrates
the violence and sexual assault scenes expertly; they’re there to serve the
plot, harsh but never over-the-top gratuitous. That’s not to say the story
doesn’t have its share of uncomfortable moments; Lisbeth’s revenge sequence is
a thing of disturbing beauty. There are, however, a few minor criticisms that
must be mentioned. Craig’s fluctuating accent becomes jarring in places. The
opening credit sequence looks great but tonally misses the mark; although Karen
O and Trent Reznor’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” will make your
hair stand on end, the visuals play like a glossy Nine Inch Nails video and
just feel out of place in setting up this film. And those who haven’t read
Larsson’s book or seen the previous movie may find themselves lost in the
whirlwind of the convoluted plot, which can be hard to follow in places.
In the end, though, these are just minor beefs and should in
no way be deterrents. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is great, dark holiday
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