If there was any doubt that director David Fincher would take The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and make it entirely his own, those inklings were quickly crushed within the first two minutes of the film. In typical Fincher fashion, Dragon Tattoo starts out with an opening title sequence set to Trent Reznor and Karen O’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” paired with wicked, psychedelic images drenched in oozing black liquid, making it loud and clear: this is not a remake of the 2009 Swedish film. And get ready for one hell of a ride.
Labeling itself the ‘feel-bad movie of Christmas’ (which has to be the best tagline of the year), Dragon Tattoo really is a story devoid of any happiness, and jam-packed with the most detestable topics this cruel world has to offer – a series of brutal murders being at the forefront. By circumstance, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a skilled computer hacker, and Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a disgraced journalist, come together to investigate these heinous crimes in this stylish, intense, and razor-sharp adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s international bestseller.
If there is one thing that takes this from a good film to a fantastic film, it’s Rooney Mara’s fearless performance as Lisbeth. She captures Lisbeth’s mix of quiet intensity and subtle compassion flawlessly; so quietly badass she makes “badass” a technical term. It would be a harsh injustice if she doesn’t get nominated for an Academy Award amongst all the Oscar-bait performances there were this year. Craig’s Blomkvist comes off somewhat flat and uninteresting in comparison, though this is more a testament to Mara’s tremendous performance rather than much fault on his part.
More than anything, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a work of extreme intensity; the atmosphere and tone is quiet and tense, not unlike Salander…but any moment can and often does go from disquieting to full on shocking and disturbing – most notably a graphic and utterly unnerving rape scene early on in the film.
The mystery investigation was treated as a secondary character, and the end revelation was missing that little punch that’ll make you audibly gasp (which isn’t at all helped by a silly change that was made to the original ending), but with a character as fascinating as Lisbeth and an actress as dynamic and mesmerizing as Mara playing her…can you blame Fincher for prioritizing?