The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo – 2011
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård
Screenplay Steven Zaillian
From the moment it was revealed that David Fincher was going to remake the 2009 Swedish original of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, mixed feelings abound. The first run through was already a great movie, with classic performances by both leads (Rapace and Nyqvist) and a crisp, intelligent mystery that served as the vehicle for the introduction of the greater story arc. Their trilogy was already completed and needed no augmentation. Fincher, however, has never directed a bad or useless movie. Whatever his reasons for wanting to be at the helm of the American version of the film, it really did not change that it was going to be a marvelous enterprise.
Can the enterprise be both marvelous and unnecessary? A discussion of the major aspects of the film should help to flesh this out.
There is a clarity to whatever Fincher places upon the screen. The precision that he regards each shot brings one more into tune with what it is they are witnessing. There are no gimmicks, but everything looks impossibly clean. Not a frame misaligned, yet every frame tells its own story. One of the best films I have ever seen, Robert Altman’s The Player, was filmed in this manner. Fincher makes every film this way. Oplev’s efforts were efficient and he let the story tell itself. Fincher, though, cannot be topped. Advantage, American version.
Daniel Craig, as Blomkvist, does a credible job infusing the passion into the story’s male protagonist. He presents himself somewhat believably as a peaceful warrior, who works with the pen, rather than the sword. The message gets confused a bit whenever he takes off his shirt to show his chiseled physique. One can’t suppose it ever occurred to Fincher to actually make him look softer through digital animation, but it might have helped. He has the inquisitive nature as well, the acceptance of his overall lot in life, as a result of that curiosity. As good as his performance is, Nyqvist’s performance was groundbreaking. Advantage, Swedish version.
The clearest difference for me is when we compare the heroine of each film. Rooney Mara gives the performance of a lifetime with her rage filled and intelligent demonstration of a woman literally facing the world with a figurative fist in front of her countenance. Her Lisbeth Salander is brave, reckless and contemplative. It’s also not as good as Noomi Rapace. Every thing that Mara does, Noomi inhabits in a more deeply, feral way. Each of her performances for the three films built upon the last, and the feeling is that this is just the beginning of a classic career. Her performance deserved an Oscar win, not just a nomination. Advantage, Swedish version.
The script for each has enough differences to make keeps both films interesting, unique and consistent in tone. Some of Lisbeth’s discoveries are shared with Blomqvist’s daughter, where in the Swedish version, he’s not been married and has no children. He serves no jail time in Fincher’s version. Salander is also more emotionally involved with Blomqvist in the 2011 film, while she seems more remote in the original. This friendship seems the lynch pin of the Swedish film, capturing the true essence of the dynamic that Larsson had created in his mind. His Blomqvist is indebted to Salander, looking at her as a magnificent being. Fincher and Zaillian’s hero is the opposite footing, to the point where Mara’s Salander asks him for permission to kill someone. The result is the key difference between the films. It makes them uniquely enjoyable. Advantage: even.
There is a plan to continue the American series. If they do, lets hope that Fincher stays on. It’s hard to say if the movie would have been so successful otherwise commercially or artistically.
(****1/2 out of *****)