The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
It's a book, it's a film, it's another film. I would be lying if I said I was looking forward to this (hence the delay in reviewing it) for all of the reasons that you might immediately expect. I heard a comment in response to a question levelled at every remake ever made, but in relation to this film particularly at the time of its asking. And that is; "Why bother?"
The answer was vague and unsatisfactory and it went something like this; "Those people that have read the book may not want to then be forced to read the film." That seems a little contrived and more than a touch xenophobic, assuming that nobody watches movies that doesn't have either a suitable command of Swedish or English (US). Fortunately, I like to read (subtitles included, where necessary) and my grasp of English is good enough. So I'm okay then. Personally, I'm not buying into the reasons given, which leaves a bad taste (like licking a roll of ten dollar bills, one at a time) in the mouth before the very Bond-esque opening credits even roll. So, now that little rant is out of the way, it would make sense to look at the film itself, regardless of its reason for being.
It is difficult, as it is with all movies adapted from novels you have already read, to disassociate your imagination of the story and characters you had to provide yourself, from the casting of the film. Or in this case, films. Making it doubly tricky. As with the (any) first film, you need to put your own mental creativity aside and let the Directors' vision envelop you instead, which is not always easy to do, depending on the power struggle between your imagination and that of the Director in question. In this respect, you are far better off not having read the book or seen the previous film of the same name.
Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist that has just been found guilty of libel (which of course is wrong, journalistic integrity is key here, if not in reality) and is subsequently hired by a rich Swede to write his memoirs and, more importantly, uncover the truth about his niece's death some forty years previously, an obsession that he has yet to unravel in all of that time. Those that have seen the previous film will know what I mean when I say Craig is adequate but a little too good-looking to play Mikael. His previous incarnation, in the form of Michael Nyqvist, seemed a better fit. Craig is a little too cocksure, a bit too fast and loose for my liking. He goes through the motions valiantly, and it must be difficult to put a different slant on the character, but maybe he has strayed a little too far away from the original than is comfortable for those that have already seen the original Swedish version.
Rooney Mara, much like Craig has quite the boots to fill with Lisbeth Salander. Noomi Rapace famously said that she was done with Lisbeth, now the trilogy of Swedish films had been completed and had no interest in taking the role to Hollywood. She at least had the foresight that the makers here did not. Lisbeth really is done already. Rapace was so convincing and so flawless as Salander, any attempt to repeat it seems like nothing more than a poor impression. That said, Mara does give it her all in the film but as I say, she comes off as a Rapace clone with some of her DNA missing.
With regards to the film itself, it is certainly worth mentioning that it retains the feel of the original, which was a large part of its success. Fincher decided to shoot and place the film in Sweden like the original and many of the accents are Swedish throughout, the main exception being Craig, steadfastly refusing much like another famous Bond, to revert to mimicry. This gives the film a harsh quality. The weather is not your friend here and neither are the locales. Add to this the pre-requisite of Mara's performance of Salander as being distant, cold and prone to bouts of controlled aggression, while Craig often looks on, weathered and mystified, and you have all of the qualities of the book and the previous film. It's grim up north, that much is plain.
Altogether, the film is not half bad. If it had been made before the original film, then it would have been worth an extra star, but the outstanding quality of the original only goes to highlight the shortcomings of this version. Oplev's version is a bare, dirty and screwed up masterpiece. Fincher is many things, but miracle worker he is not. This version is by the numbers, with a sometimes suitable score to chivvy up the plot. To be brutally honest, he'd lost me at the opening credits. I was expecting something akin to 'Se7en' here, but was left wanting. As I say, kudos for the effort, but like all true fans of the trilogy had already said, "Why bother?"