Mr Bond”s dragon tattoo won”t leave much of a mark
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (18)
Verdict: Grim, stylish… but a bit boring
Right from its parody Bond-style opening title sequence, it’s clear that David Fincher has decided to turn Stieg Larsson’s best-selling novel into an anti-007 movie.
The current incumbent of the Bond tuxedo, Daniel Craig, is cast against ladykilling, tough-guy type as Mikael Blomkvist, a cardigan-clad, crusading journalist for a Left-wing Stockholm magazine, who’s in disgrace after a court case.
On his uppers, financially and spiritually, he agrees to write the biography of, and find the missing niece of, a wealthy industrialist (Christopher Plummer).
Hacked off: Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Unlike 007, Blomkvist is physically awkward and needs rescuing by the female, but not very feminine title character Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who doubles as his research assistant and occasional bedmate.
‘I’m not sure this is a good idea,’ he protests, as she starts to seduce him.
But it’s clear from her expression that his views on the matter are unimportant. He’s the victim, not the predator.
The one affinity Fincher’s film has with the Bond franchise is an obsession with hi-tech gadgetry. Lisbeth’s unique selling point is her experience as a hacker, which she uses to invade people’s privacy with the ruthless expertise of a red‑top’s private investigator.
For a scrupulous journalist, Craig’s Blomkvist seems curiously reluctant to emit even a mouse-like squeak of disapproval.
Mara takes a more nuanced approach to Lisbeth than Noomi Rapace did in the original Swedish film. Mara shows the character’s anxieties as well as her anger. She even asks Blomkvist’s permission to go out and wreak lethal revenge on the principal villain.
Craig is more charismatic than his Swedish predecessor, Michael Nyqvist, but his refusal even to attempt a Swedish accent makes him seem aloof from the material. Everyone else in the cast makes some effort to sound Scandinavian.
Grim: Daniel Craig plays Blomkvist with Rooney Mara
Style is more important in this version than emotion or story- telling. It doesn’t make us care enough about the missing girl, and if you haven’t read the book or seen the previous film version you may find it hard to follow the process of tracing her and the serial killer.
Making the tone colder, more serious and less pulpy than the source material tends, paradoxically, to expose the story’s sordid sensationalism and melodramatic excesses.
The movie suffers, most of all, from a stodgy pace and grotesque elephantiasis: two hours 40 minutes is very long for a thriller, especially one that isn’t especially complex.
After the principal villain dies, Steven Zaillian’s screenplay goes on to a very extended epilogue that feels slow and redundant.
I’m normally a fan of Fincher — especially his darker films such as Se7en, Zodiac and Fight Club — and he’s deservedly built up a reputation as an auteur.
This remake is more expensive and stylish than its Swedish predecessor, and that will endear it to many critics. To my mind, however, this is one of his lesser achievements, like The Game, Panic Room and Alien 3.
Audiences will spot the weaknesses of this, just as they cottoned on to the shortcomings of the critically praised Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
They’ll spot the confused storyline, the lack of emotional involvement and, most of all, its monotony. Though not in monochrome, the film is so drained of colour that it could almost be in black and white.
And the tone throughout is so gloomy and solemn, the effect is the opposite of uplifting.
The master of the thriller genre, Alfred Hitchcock, knew that even the nastiest stories need light as well as shade. Fincher’s too busy darkening his garish source material to care.