Following the huge international success of the original Stieg Larsson novels, as well as the Swedish films, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seemed like inevitable source material for a Hollywood remake. With only two years between the release of the original Swedish film and the US version it feels fortunate that the director attached to the project was David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network), one of Hollywood’s most creative and consistent filmmakers. However, this does not necessarily guarantee a worthwhile adaptation of the Swedish murder mystery.
Fincher tells the story of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) and journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) investigating the murder of a young girl back in the 1960’s, using an intense stylisation drawn from its Swedish setting. A near constant barrage of snow and wind fills the mise-en-scene and sound design. This version of the story depicts an exaggerated Sweden, owing to Fincher’s background in music videos and love of digital technology.
Like the Swedish film, this one intrigues us with the disturbed Lisbeth Salander character. Fincher accentuates her features, casting the effeminate Rooney Mara and moulding her into a mohawk wearing chain smoker. Salander’s ballsy intelligence is what created the international sensation and Mara successfully portrays this, but unlike the Swedish film (where Salander was always a step ahead of the audience) Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo feels a little more predictable. As with the exaggeration in style, it seems that the plot has also become more obvious.
While reducing the sense of mystery found in the original, Fincher opts to disturb instead. This places his interpretation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo closer to his earlier films like Seven, but this does not always feel like the right treatment. As a story which works on numerous levels The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems difficult to perfect; perhaps this is due to the complexity of the novel, clashing with the need to produce a product that lives up to great commercial expectations. With this in mind Fincher delivers a good effort, but not a career best.