If they’re giving out awards for accurate film taglines, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo would sweep the board. “The feel bad film of the year” is the ideal summary for David Fincher’s remake of the Swedish cult classic; it’s the antithesis to the sacchrine cinematic offerings flooding Odeons and television schedules over the last month of so. Arthur Christmas this is not. Considering the original novel has been out for roughly half a decade, and the original Swedish film for two years, if you’ve avoided spoilers ‘til now (as I have) then well done. To be honest, lack of any prior knowledge only helps to enhance the more shocking moments of Dragon Tattoo (of which there are a fair few). There’s very little else like this around right now (yes yes, I get the irony of saying there’s very little else like a REMAKE). Telling the tale of disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) and asocial hacker Lisbeth Salander (The Social Network’s Rooney Mara), Fincher’s film takes us from intriguing drama to pulpy thriller with more than a few horror tropes thrown in for good measure. Blomqvist, reputation ruined from accusing a shady businessman of even shadier dealings, is chosen to investage a decades old murder involving one of the most dysfunctional families in ficiton, with Salander as his assistant. It’s a journey with enough twists and turns to keep Sherlock guessing.
The stark cinematography of the opening scene sets the tone for what ends up being a bleak but massively enjoyable two and a half hours. The brilliant opening credits sequence will stay with you for quite some time, but equally it seems the beginning of a TV show, not a blockbuster. This feeling continues into the first act of the film; it seems sort of small scale for what has become a massively anticipated film. The first twenty minutes or so give the feeling that you’ve flicked the channel over halfway through and have to catchup somehow. One positive of the first act is that for once, Daniel Craig is entirely watchable, instead of just being gruff and squinty.
When paired with Rooney Mara, he gets even better; the two have great chemistry, which shines in the second act and bodes well for the next two films in the trilogy. Expect awards galore for Mara in 2012, thanks to a transformative, career-making and career-defining turn as the iconic Lisbeth. Salander is such a unique character, and backed by a flawless performace, one that lights up the screen with ever appearance.
Dragon Tattoo is a brave, unsettling film. There’s enough high octane nightmare fuel here to last for months (if I say steel dildo, you’ll get what I mean) which makes for more than a few uncomfortable moments. However taking these moments of the film would rob it of its power, and the catharsis of its payoff. It turns the excellently formed characters into caricatures; it takes the film from a fantastic thriller to a bog-standard whodunnit. Although, with a running time of two and a half hours, it’s quite likely that you’ll have figured out the big twist fairly early. There’s a lot of detail crammed into this version of the film, moreso than the original, with only eight minutes extra in length, and you have to work a bit harder in order to keep up (a fact lampshaded a few times in the film).
In short, there needs to be more big films like this; intelligent, challenging, brave, and yes occasionally unsettling. What would you rather see; something that made you think and wowed you? …or another Pirates of The Zzzzzzzzz? Thought so.