Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher, 2011
BBFC rating: 18

I tend to think of actors as being like football managers: they need a reasonable level of competence, but those who've attained that level are more or less interchangeable. There are a couple of exceptions - I'll probably give a film a second glance based solely on its cast's including Willem Dafoe or Chloƫ Sevigny. But it's rare that a character seems so important that the actor chosen for the role is critical - after all, Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter is mediocre at its peak, but that doesn't spoil the movies for me.

However, having seen the original Swedish adaptations of The Girl... series - in which Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander, the eponymous female lead, to a tee - it seemed likely that this new version was going to stand or fall on the basis of Rooney Mara's take on the role. Fortunately, she does it very well indeed. She sulks, hacks, seduces, and zips about on an extremely cool motorbike, with style and attitude. Everyone else pays their part convincingly well enough, and the script, cinematography and pace are all about right - the latter, notably, despite this film's length of almost 150 minutes. It also retains the darkness and brutality of the source material, hence its 18 certificate.

Still, this was true of the original Swedish version of the film. I definitely enjoyed the American version more, but that's probably because it's now been over two years since I read the book, so the story seemed fresher - whereas I saw the Swedish version at the cinema in the afternoon after finishing the book that morning. The American version is better in its choice of graphic design and props, but the original wins for being in Swedish where the characters in the remake speak English in a variety of Scandinavian accents - bar Daniel Craig's Blomkvist who, oddly enough, has the actor's regular English accent. It would have been better for all the characters to do the same. I think the film just about gets away with this defect, and it's an otherwise very good adaptation of an excellent, exciting story. But I don't think I could recommend it over the original.