The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) | Film review
David Fincher and Rooney Mara make this the best possible Dragon Tattoo movie.
It’s a pretty big comedown from Zodiac to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which unfurls a mystery so perfunctory, the movie can barely conceal whodunit, let alone tantalize and confound the way David Fincher’s best procedurals do. Still, if Fincher wants to make a straight-up blockbuster, the main thing to ask is that he does it with style. His latest outing is just about the best imaginable Dragon Tattoo gloss: an unnerving, immaculately crafted thriller that gets to you like a wintry chill.
Stacked up against Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 version of Stieg Larsson’s best-seller, the reboot is a fascinating object lesson in how two adaptations can follow each other closely scene-for-scene yet diverge in tension and atmosphere. (Much of the pervading dread is due to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score, which rattles under nearly the entire film.) Knowing what happens may be an advantage; the filmmaking is so precise that suspense takes hold anyway, and you’re free to concentrate on the contours of the movie’s grimly antiseptic world.
The first hour no longer feels like deadweight, with superstar hacker Lisbeth Salander (Social Network breakup girl Rooney Mara, in a startling, triumphant transformation) registering forcefully as one of Fincher’s gallery of outsiders. This time, the movie isn’t simply baiting the prurient; the casual brutality as Lisbeth seeks revenge on a rapist caseworker (Yorick van Wageningen) somehow makes her subsequent relationship with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) more tense and more tender, particularly as she’s stitching his eyebrow with dental floss.
Once Lisbeth joins Blomkvist in solving a four-decade-old disappearance case, Fincher can’t quite tamp down the escalating absurdities, which actually include a character saying, “We’re not that different, you and I.” (Nor is the bombast limited to the material. The James Bond–like opening credits come on way too hard.) Still, signature touches abound: The hacking scenes echo Social Network’s Facemash sequence; as in Seven and Zodiac, a library holds a key. Martin Scorsese didn’t match Goodfellas when he followed it with Cape Fear—but it would be a shame to miss either.