Many have questioned Fincher’s decision to direct his own adaptation of the hugely successful Stieg Larsson novel, especially considering how recently the fairly well-received Swedish films were released. Fincher’s film should not be considered a remake, but simply as another version, and should be reviewed in its own right.
Mikael Blomkvist (an excellent Daniel Craig), sued for libel after he failed to prove the claims he had made in his Millennium Magazine. Blomkvist’s journalistic career is, understandably, in tatters: with little else to occupy him, he finds himself intrigued when wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger invites Blomkvist to discuss a personal issue.
Making the four hour journey to the remote island Vanger lives on, Vanger asks Blomkvist to use his journalistic skills in solving an issue that has plagued Vanger for the past forty-years: the disappearance and supposed subsequent murder of his niece Harriet. Vanger explains that he wishes Blomviskt to use his ‘keen investigative mind’ in looking over the case.
Blomviskt, in the light of his current financial situation, as well as his interest in the case, agrees. As the case progresses, Blomviskt requires the use of a research assistant, meeting the desperately troubled Lisbeth Salander (a magnetic Rooney Mara): the case captivates the pair.
Fincher is known, and sometimes critiqued, for his atmospheric, often oppressive, direction: certainly, much of the film, even daytime scenes remain rendered in darkness throughout maintaining a manner of pathetic fallacy. Being a fan of Fincher, I enjoy the atmospheric headiness his films create, finding them instrumental in creating the emotional core of the film, rather than it forming any sort of lazy short-hand in its efforts of creating meaning. Thus, the film’s frequent dim-lighting aids Fincher’s depiction of the murky environment both Blomviskt and Salander exist in.
Much of the film’s publicity revolved around the transformation of Rooney Mara, previously known for a brief but memorable role in Fincher’s prior film, The Social Network. Mara, attractive, albeit conventionally so, was shown in a number of publicity shots with multiple piercings, shorn hair and lots of leather.
Mara’s performance, despite the attention to her physical transformation, is not simply image based: her Lisbeth is affecting and at all times utterly compelling. Such is the strength of her performance, that despite the intrigue of the central plot line the film feels lacking whenever she is off-screen. This is not to deride the film as a whole; Fincher admirably handles the often jarring narrative and the rest of the cast, particularly Daniel Craig are all excellent, it’s just Mara’s performance is simply that good all others pale in comparison.