IT IS slicker, anyway, than Niels Arden Oplev’s original version of the first book in Stieg Larsson’s sloppily plotted series of novels. In Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher slathers on style, ultimately turning the facially perforated, Moe HowardÐhaircutted heroine, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara, miscast), into a softer little-girl-lost who talks like a Star Trek android. He also makes a love triangle out of what once was a set of sleepover friendships between Lisbeth, Mikael and his editor (Robin Wright, excellent).
Disgraced magazine journalist Mikael (Daniel Craig) is hired by the genial old head (Christopher Plummer) of a powerful Swedish family—ostensibly to write the old man’s autobiography. Really, the man wants Mikael to investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet some 40 years previously. Meanwhile, we observe the comings and goings of the semilegal free-lance investigator Lisbeth, whose first task is to pay back the social worker who raped her. When the tattooed Lisbeth and Mikael team up, they discover the niece’s disappearance is connected to a cold case of a Bible-mad serial killer, who operated 40 years ago.
Fincher knows how to shuffle photographs. So much of what goes on here is about staring at old photos, the animated flicker of coroner’s shots or the detection of murky figures lurking in the background. And there’s typically excellent cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth. Yellows and whites, the color that customarily comes up stark or glaring in digital projection, glow in a variety of shades: dirty snow, the old ivory of the sunlight in the ’60s flashbacks, the creamy interiors of the glass house of the missing girl’s friendly brother (Stellan Skarsgard).
The title-sequence ballet of figures, knives and flaming ravens is iconic enough. But The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo comes to a finish early and keeps on going. The money scene of the rape-revenge, stretched out by Fincher, is shot in a way that really ought to make people ask themselves what, exactly, is in it for them. The rickety source material defeats even Fincher—so, so much throat clearing. Compare the time it takes for Philip Marlowe to get into Gen. Sternwood’s mansion in The Big Sleep with the amount of time it takes Blomkvist to get hired.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
R; 158 min.