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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Think ink, American style.

Rod Lott March 19th, 2012

As not-so-boldly predicted, director David Fincher (The Social Network) delivers a superior remake of Sweden’s global hit The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s phenomenon of a novel.


However, those who have seen the original may wish to approach this version only to witness what Fincher brings to it, as the story remains unchanged in all but minor details. Many scenes seem shot on the very sets of Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 film.

What Fincher grants is a sharper, crisper look; a brisker pace; a richer supporting cast; and an instant classic of an opening-credits sequence. His suspense level isn’t noticeably greater, and even pales compared to the punch of his Zodiac or the shock of his Seven.  

As disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist hired to solve a 40-year-old murder, Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens) makes a stronger impression than Michael Nyqvist was allowed. As Lisbeth Salander, the brusque, socially awkward hacker Blomkvist hires as a research assistant, Rooney Mara (The Social Network) had huge combat boots to fill, following Noomi Rapace’s award-nabbing turn in the foreign Dragon and its two immediate sequels, but Mara commits and delivers.

Her Lisbeth lives on Coca-Cola, Happy Meals, ramen, nicotine and pain, and makes an unforgettably stark impression. Her Best Actress Oscar nomination was well-deserved, and had this material not been hit out of the park thrice by Rapace before her, she would have had a better shot at winning. On one hand, the Academy surprised me by not too stodgy to recognize such dark material; on the other, it merits more nominations than it received. Its win in the cinematography department was an unexpected victory, but welcome.

The big imperfection is the occasionally intrusive score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who rightfully took home Oscar gold for providing The Social Network with soul. Still, that deficiency is hardly a reason not to look forward to the Americanization of the trilogy’s remaining chapters, especially since this Dragon roars greater at home, where its hazy shades of winter feel more intimate.

The lone exception to that is that aforementioned dynamic credits sequence, which was a marvel on the big screen. And the lone special feature is a commentary by David Fincher, but he gives good commentary. One often doesn’t get to praise packaging, but I dig the hacker-inspired decision to make the DVD look like a homemade bootleg on DVD-R, Sharpie scrawls and all. —Rod Lott

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