It’s hard to imagine why David Fincher, riding high on a wave of adulation for his 2010 insta-classic, The Social Network, would even consider remaking a film released less than two years earlier, and based on a galactically successful book at that.
This sort of thing is usually the domain of rookie directors looking to make a name for themselves, willing to bend to studio will. So it stands to reason that Fincher felt he had some new light to shed on this well-worn trail, but sadly it is not the case.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo follows disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), who is enlisted by Swedish oligarch Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to track down the person he believes killed his niece 45 years ago.
Vanger’s relatives live with him on the family’s island compound and he is adamant one of them is a murderer. Blomkvist hires research assistant Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an asocial, punk tech-savant, to help him with the case and they develop an unlikely partnership.
Despite its shocking depictions of rape and gruesome revenge, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – all 158 minutes of it – is a bland affair; a tarted up Agatha Christie-style locked-room mystery, which attempts to conceal its pulpy, whodunit roots with extreme violence, an unexpected anti-hero and a washed-out colour palate.
While Craig strolls through the role as Blomkvist in his usual, pouty, earnest manner, Mara is a revelation as Salander. Despite a leading role in the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was Fincher who brought Mara to prominence in The Social Network (she’s the one who calls Mark Zuckerberg an asshole in the film’s memorable opening exchange) and her performance here delivers on that promise.
Mara is expressive within her character’s limited emotional range, delightfully sardonic, nuanced and totally uninhibited in the role.
As you’d expect from a studio tent-pole, this is a slick affair and Fincher executes his distinct visual style with mixed results. But it’s the screenplay that’s the problem here, cut and pasted from Stieg Larson’s book by Oscar winner Steve Zaillian.
With every film he writes, Zaillian’s Schindler’s List screenplay seems more and more a fluke and his efforts on Dragon Tattoo do nothing to dissuade from the notion.
This might have been a more interesting film had it received the once-over from fellow Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), who recently rescued Zaillian’s Moneyball script.
Zaillian’s screenplay is bland, totally lacking in exhilaration, suspense or intrigue – not good form when bringing a thriller to the screen.