Stephen Rebello reviews the Bad Girl movie of the year, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Director: David Fincher MPAA Rating: R Studio: Scott Rudin Productions, Yellow Bird Films
Director David Fincher caught plenty of hell when, in the heat of the acclaim for The Social Network, it was announced that he would tackle an English-language remake of the enormously popular 2009 Swedish film The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo directed by Niels Arden Oplev’s based on the first of Stieg Larsson’s pulpy, plotted-by-the-numbers bestsellers.
What would drive one of our most idiosyncratic directors and master craftsmen to tackle a remake, let alone one with franchise potential?
Fincher also took flack for casting the relatively unknown Rooney Mara who, in turn, also caught hell when she stepped into the role of the emotionally bruised, much-pierced, butt-kicking, not-of-this-earth survivalist Lisbeth Salander made so iconic by Noomi Rapace.
So, now that we have Fincher’s, Mara’s and first-class screenwriter Steven Zaillian’s take on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, is it epic? It certainly kicks off with a roar thanks to a brutal stunner of a credit sequence accompanied by Trent Reznor and Karen O’s slashing redo of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” Then, the creaky mystery plot takes over – a disgraced journalist (Daniel Craig, in good, subdued form) gets hired by the scion (a just-right Christopher Plummer) of a wealthy, almost comically creepy Swedish family to unravel the mystery of a young woman who vanished decades ago.
Happily, it’s not all about the underlying camp of the book or its serial killer plot. What remains most powerful is its story of an abused woman outsmarting and savagely turning the tables not only on those who wronged her but also on any man who might try.
Enter Rooney Mara.
Fincher’s gamble on the young actress pays off because she is good, even compelling at times, but another actress who made the role indelible got there before her. The whole movie is stuffed with strong performances not only from the two stars but also from Robin Wright, Joely Richardson and Stellan Skarsgard.
The material has been adapted with bracing intelligence by Steven Zaillian, shot with icy precision by Jeff Cronenweth and Fincher and company create a film that looks and sounds state of the art. It’s intensely striking, full of portents, menace and dread and roiling with violence. Still, it’s all a bit of a letdown because even though this is a more serious, more humane and beautifully made film than the original, the nagging feeling of déjà vu brings it down. It’s tough to connect with it on any emotional level.
As technically astute and top of the line as the film is, you keep waiting, hoping, for doses of pure, unadulterated, off-the-chain Fincher. You want his spin on it. You want a sign of what itch he needed to scratch in making it. For filmmaker as gifted, brilliant and cutting edge as Fincher can be, his The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo feels a bit like yesterday’s news.