David Fincher‘s adaptation of the highly-popular novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is just as dark and unsettling as the previous Swedish version, yet it still feels different enough to warrant existence. Rooney Mara‘s take on the iconic Lisbeth Salander is refreshingly different, yet it still gets across the characters traits and flaws. Daniel Craig turns a very formulaic reporter role into something of his own, providing Mikael Blomkvist with a rugged past and uncertain future. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) isn’t a remake, but more of a proper re-imagining.
Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is in the middle of a highly problematic situation. He’s been set up and screwed, partly because of his laziness and partly due to a vendetta between him and a wealthy businessman. He’s threatened with a financial problem that could ruin his career. Given no other choice he takes an offer from a wealthy man by the name of Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). In exchange for a few months of his time, Henrik has offered to compensate Mikael with lots of money and a ticket to clearing his name. The catch? Mikael must investigate a missing person’s case that has been opened for 40 years.
The only leads are Henrik and his family, who are scattered about an island. The more Mikael investigates the case the more he stirs up trouble amongst family members, putting his life in danger.
He brings on an assistant, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). She was previously hired by Henrik to do the background check on Mikael. Lisbeth is a little different than most, dressing in darker shades and coming off looking more like an alien than anything else. She’s had a troubled childhood and it shows, but don’t let her looks fool you because she’s a hacker/investigator with a drive to catch anyone that does harm to others, specifically women.
The odd pairing of the two makes for one dark mystery/thriller directed by a man who’s known for directing such films like Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network and Zodiac. David Fincher‘s artistic eye combined with Mara and Craig’s broken performances makes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) a solid film, but not without its problems.
The problems the film suffers doesn’t have anything to do with its director or its performances. Fincher lends the film his general skill at painting a disturbing visual masterpiece. It’s a hard film to stomach at parts, but you can’t look away from his sharp camerawork. Everything about Dragon Tattoo looks calculated and purposeful. Each and every shot conveys a strong set of emotions. Fincher taps into his fellow collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for yet another memorable musical score that is just as chilling and uncomfortable as the film.
Rooney Mara paints a very different Lisbeth Salander than previous incarnation played by Noomi Rapace. She’s less of a straight-up punk goth and more of a socially awkward alien figure that’s small and scrawny on the outside, but full of fire and rage on the inside. I’m glad she didn’t go in the same direction as Rapace, because that would have made the film feel too much like a repeat.
Daniel Craig adds a very rugged and unattractive feel to the character of Mikael Blomkvist. He’s no James Bond in this film, often times coming off as extremely tired and lacking of any real motivation. His portrayal of Mikael is drastically different than the previous attempt and he makes Mikael a lot more memorable and relatable both for the audiences and for Salander.
The only real flaws with the film come in when comparing it to the original. Fincher takes more than one step in a different direction when breaking down the story and the choices he makes lessens the impact of the overall film. The end doesn’t feel true to the characters and several points in the film are changed and switched around. Most of the changes work and are perfectly fine for new-comers to the story, but those who’ve seen the original can’t help but to compare.
Even viewing it as its own film I still find myself questioning the direction on more than one occasion. Certain scenes lead to nothing while others feel even more suspenseful. The last 25 minutes ruin the otherwise perfect pacing and the film closes on a sour note. Still, there’s plenty to love in Fincher’s adaptation and most will be surprised by the quality on display.
Sony’s 1080p video transfer is almost flawless. The entire film has a cold and grey look to it, which is an exact replication of what Fincher wanted. Even though things look a little dark and dreary the image still captures fine detail very strongly. There’s a lot of texture and life in this transfer. Blacks are incredibly strong and the only complaint I have is the brief moments of banding.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track provides the audio goods from the opening credits until the very end. There’s a lot of activity on the back channels whenever there’s gunfire or loud activity, but that never interrupts the dialogue on the front channels. The track is well-balanced and always shifting the focus from channel to channel.
One thing I love about David Fincher is his dedication to special features. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) comes with a rather extensive amount of bonus features that’s spread across two discs. Here’s a full list below:
- Audio Commentary with Director David Fincher
- Men who Hate Woman (HD)
- Casting Salander (HD)
- Different in Every Way (HD)
- The Look of Salander (HD)
- Mara/Fincher (HD)
- Irene Nesser (HD)
- Salander Test Footage (HD)
- Casting Blomkvist (HD)
- Daniel Craig on Film Acting (HD)
- Dressing Blomkvist (HD)
- Investigation (Stills) (HD)
- Stellan Skarsgård on Acting (HD)
- Psychopathy (HD)
- Bondage (HD)
- Torture (HD)
- Wrapped in Plastic (HD)
- Set Design (Stills) (HD)
- Stockholm Syndrome (HD)
- Stockholm’s Tunnelbana (HD)
- F*ck These People (HD)
- The End (HD)
- Picture Wrap (HD)
- Casting Armansky (HD)
- Armansky Audition (HD)
- Thinking Evil Sh*t (HD)
- Rape/Revenge (HD)
- Int. Blomkvist’s Cottage (HD)
- Int. Martin’s House (HD)
- Int. Salander’s Apt. (HD)
- In the Cutting Room (HD)
- ADR (HD)
- Main Titles (HD)
- Visual Effects Montage (HD)
- Hard Copy (SD)
- TV Spots (HD)
- Trailers (HD)
- Metal One Sheet (HD)
- DVD Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
- Disc Production Credits
At the end of the day David Fincher‘s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is a well-made mystery that deals with very dark material and unorthodox characters. Your enjoyment might vary depending on your tolerance for violence, torture and rape. If you can stomach it then you’ll probably want to pick this film up. Fans of the original film seem to be coming out with split decisions on Fincher’s take.
I still prefer the original, but I do like a lot of things that Fincher added/changed. Daniel Craig gives the character Mikael a complete overhaul, filling him in with vulnerability, weakness and a knack for conclusive reporting. Rooney Mara transforms herself into the hacker/investigator Lisbeth Salander with a performance that is brutal and scary, yet misunderstood and gentle. She does a good job setting herself apart from Noomi Rapace, while still staying true to the character.
Fincher’s direction is good and the music is even better, but the closing minutes really drag the film down and hold it back from being something really special. The Blu-Ray makes up for whatever the film fumbles, because it is absolutely jam-packed with bonus material. It’s also neatly packaged in a digi-book styled packaging with a DVD and UltraViolet copy of the film.
Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig provide performances equal, if not better, than the original interpretations and Fincher's direction is sharp, dark and cold, which brings the material to life.