One of the most confronting yet addictive movies of the year.
Around 2005, Stieg Larrson wrote three books that became the Millenieum trilogy after witnessing a 15 year old girl getting gang raped. One of them was actually titled Men Who hate Women because of what he saw. Larsson then died a year later. But if he's alive today and saw the two seperate adaptations of The Dragon Tattoo, Larsson would be scratching his head wondering which was more accurate to his book.
I'm trying my best here to review the movie without comparing the original and please people. The Hollywood version is not a remake. It's more of an adaptation and interpretation together. And let's be at least thankful that they gave a shit about the remake by hiring some talent to do so. The only thing I would say between the two is that David Fincher has given this film an improved quality rather than a carbon copy of the Swedish.
Starting off with a meticulous opening sequence, Millenuiem magazine reporter Mikhael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has had his reputation destroyed after he's been indicted for libel against a powerful Swedish industrialist. But Blomkvist had been brought upon by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the heir of the Vanger dynasty to investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet more than 50 years ago (to be fair this may be his get-out-of-jail-free card). Vanger suspects that one person of his family was involved given how some of them were Nazis, committed incest and tortured people and animals. Blomkvist hires computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) who carries a psychotic past with her. She's under care by a guardian whose sadist abilities lead to her further traumatization.
Fincher is a director best known for making seethingly dark films but all of his greatest work should be known for delivering a zeigeist. In Se7en, he delves into the mindset of a serial killer; Fight Club was a social commentary about how our lives would be worst off with materialism; Zodiac delved into another mindset of a serial killer, but also brings into light of how we're obsessed with the truth needed to be heard; and The Social Network was about our current desire to find a social connection in a current era. But if there was a zeigeist presented in The Dragon Tattoo it would be that our innerselves contains the very worst and very dark in all of us.
Fincher's Dragon Tattoo brings a mesmerising yet twisted mystery with intricate detail and realism. He's a storyteller rather than a preacher of all morals, particularly when the story involves rape and torture but it was a good thing that he moves on with the mystery. But be warned: there are three scenes that are brutal to the eyes. Granted, I would call it pulpy. With every scene-by-scene shot cautiously edited, the cinematography from Jeff Cronenbeth gorgeously crisp and the soundtrack by Trent Reznor swiftly creepy, the movie's visuals looks brilliantly pure and paletted.
Daniel Craig plays a more engaging yet slightly interesting Mikael Blomkvist capturing every tension grabbing moment in this movie. Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard gives props as two of the living Vangers who are dysfuctional in their sinister world. But it's Rooney Mara who scores a phenomenal performance from any actress this year as the reptilian yet indestructive Salander. What's iconic about her anti-heroine is that she's not just she's a rebel to society: intelligent, alienating yet vulnerable and importantly feminist. She represents a girl entangled within the sexual politics containing voyeurism kept by criminal men. She's also a real life angel of death in which she will annihilate you if you mess with her. Mara and Craig both have good (if not, ambiguous) chemistry, but with Mara, she brings Salander to a more human and emotional range.
Steve Zaillian's character and plot driven screenplay is tender and tense. However there are some moments that drags on leading into a cheap trick for the plot. Some of the characters needed more depth particularly the Vangers as their personal history feels like an outline of the worst things they've ever did and with Henrik all we get was that he's clean in the family. And since the film's two and a half hours long, Fincher might have been tighter with his editing. The last act would be very frustrating to audiences opening a possibility of a trilogy, but it actually made sense to me as Salander was more sociable and had feelings towards Blomkvist following the book's original structure.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo isn't exactly one of David Fincher's best work, but his take of Larson's bestseller novel is cold and haunting filled with loose textures and electrifying nihilism added to a plot Agatha Christie first structured. If anything, you should at least give the film a go regardless of your familiarity with the books or when a movie with exactly the same story has already been made.