Dir. David Fincher
(2011, R, 160 min)

I was curious to see how a distinctive filmmaker like David Fincher would approach The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the popular mystery novel by Stieg Larsson that was previously adapted in the Swedish language by Niels Arden Oplev, whose version I saw when it was released in the US just last year. Not much differently, I’m surprised to report. I enjoyed this new version about as much as the previous version, which is to say, quite a bit. After watching Fincher’s interpretation, I reread my review of the earlier film to refresh my memory, and I find I could lift whole paragraphs from it and transplant them here verbatim, changing only the names of the actors playing the roles. Many of the things that work work in the same way. Some of the earlier flaws are intact as well.

Rooney Mara is just as good as Noomi Rapace was in the role of goth-punk hacker Lisbeth Salander, though screenwriter Steven Zaillian gives the character greater vulnerability, which is neither better nor worse, only different. Softened is her relationship with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), whom she aids in the search for a serial killer among the wealthy Vanger clan, whose patriarch Henrik (Christopher Plummer) wants to get to the bottom of his beloved niece’s murder while he’s still able.

I haven’t read the novel, so I can only relate the films to each other. Their differences are subtle but sometimes significant, including a scene involving a car accident that in the previous film was the setup for a moral choice, but in this film is sapped of its meaning. On the other hand, the casting of the virile, charismatic Craig makes Mikael more of a match for Lisbeth, allowing for a more credible sexual tension between them. Otherwise, Fincher doesn’t stray too far from convention or try to reinvent the wheel, but after films like The Social Network and Zodiac, I kinda wish he had. This is not a masterpiece, but an effective genre piece, following in the footsteps of another effective genre piece. This time in English.