Complete A-Z list

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The


Stars: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson, Geraldine James, Goran Visnjic, Donald Sumpter, Ulf Friberg

Director: David Fincher

Rather too many foreign films are ruined by Hollywood remakes. Movies like The Vanishing, Let Me In and The Ring, among many others, help prove the point.

Stieg Larsson’s best-seller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, first filmed in 2009 by Swedish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev, is a welcome exception, thanks to a compelling script by Schindler’s List Oscar-winner Steven Zaillian and David (Se7en) Fincher’s sustained direction.

The plot remains essentially the same. A Swedish financial journalist who has just lost a libel action is hired by a powerful tycoon to investigate the murder of 16-year-old niece some 40 years ago. The journalist is later joined in his mission by a strange young woman who is a master computer hacker and had checked out the journalist for his suitability for the mission…

Fincher’s icy direction sees to it that the narrative becomes tantalisingly twisted and increasingly suspenseful as the film progresses, and is rewarded by a strong, understandably morose performance by Craig (who, presumably, can now get any role he wants as the current 007-in-residence) as the journalist. Plummer is excellent as the tycoon who hires Craig and there’s useful work by, particularly, van Wageningen, who is truly monstrous as the official who heaps sexual abuse on the female investigator and eminently deserves the even more monstrous vengeance she wreaks on him.

She is played by Mara, stick thin, sporting a Mohican haircut and enough facial and body piercings to set off an airport scanner (as well as, of course, the eponymous tattoo). Mara, briefly glimpsed in Fincher’s previous picture The Social Contract is terrific. Appropriately described as “different… in every way”, Mara is different but definitely a match for the role’s creator Noomi Rapace (ill-used in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows). Her performance, embellished by Fincher’s dark direction and appropriate dark cinematography (Jeff Cronenweth), crowns a compelling thriller that grips like a garrote.

Subtitles are understandably missing which presumably means the film cannot qualify as ‘art’, since Hollywood movies in this enviable, often little-seen category by and large prefer to be smug and self-worshipp
ing rather than audience-friendly.

Alan Frank

USA/Sweden/UK/ Germany 2011. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour by deluxe.
158 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 24 Dec 2011