REVIEW: 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' (2012)

REVIEW: 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' (2012)

REVIEW: 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' (2012), Flicks.co.nz

4 stars

The first film in the American three-picture adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Millennium Trilogy. Directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network), starring Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) and Rooney Mara (The Social Network). Now playing nationwide, click for movie times and trailer.

David Fincher’s made some strange career choices (Benjamin Button anyone?), but adapting Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Scandinavian door-stopper might well be the weirdest. For one thing it’s already been done, pretty well, in 2009. For another, the first half of the story – a rather lame murder mystery enlivened by a fascinating central character in troubled hacker Lisbeth Salander (Mara) – is 90% exposition meets 10% sexual assault. He’s also retained the book’s Swedish setting and names, so it’s not even a sop to the subtitle-averse.

So what can we expect from this spruced-up Swenglish version, besides more product placement? For the first hour, disappointingly little. As before, nobody seems willing to snip Larsson’s narrative string, so we trudge through a series of wearying introductions to interchangeable old men (Plummer, Berkoff, Skarsgard), each of whom has a long-buried secret. No scene lasts longer than 30 seconds except those depicting Salander getting abused, which feel endless. It is, to put it lightly, a difficult watch.

Although Craig is a commanding presence as crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist, it’s not until he and Salander join forces that film emerges from its predecessor’s shadow. When it does, it’s riveting – the leads’ strange chemistry (think little girl lost meets handsome dad) crackles, and Fincher has a real talent for making people looking through files seem fascinating (see Zodiac). Although the excitement subsides after a terrific early climax, it’s an effective, if unfathomable, entry in the Fincher canon. If you’ve seen the original, knock a star off the rating. If you haven’t seen either, watch this one.

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