Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Daniel Craig’s Mikael is our friend in the North of Europe, a journalist headhunted to investigate a disappearance of a girl nearly 40 years ago. Running parallel to Mikael finding his feet in the case we learn about Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth, a girl with a dragon tattoo who did the background checks on Mikael and is an expert research; early impressions are she appears to have the social skills of a member of a Brit-pop band while living on a horrible diet of sugary drinks, fast food and nicotine, all of which are provided by brands whose product placement no doubt helped to fund this lavish production.

In over two-and-a-half hours David Fincher tells the first part of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy in a picture full of sweeping landscapes, plush interior designs and with a number of stylish flourishes, including the viewer riding pillion on an accelerating motorbike, while still fleshing out the life of the lead character and a detailed central plot.

And it is the elements of the central plot that clearly make the story attractive to a film maker. There is a wide cast list in a murder mystery, old Nazis (a favourite feature in some great films from the seventies), newer forms of technology as investigation aids, and a detective seemingly isolated in a house in the woods. And as the mystery of the disappearance unravels Fincher is able to easily build up the tension with camera angles and shots designed to highlight the fear of Mikael, who despite his instincts walks into dangerous territory, soon to be at the mercy of the villan, like a Swedish James Bond.

There is a wider plot as well, where Lisbeth uses her technical skills in order to seek redemption and a vengeance for someone, as she says, she likes working with. This part of the film almost feels bolted on though, curtailed by the genre, and not explored in the same depth it may have been if this was an adaption for a television series.

As a film, Girl with a Dragon Tattoo is thriller set in moneyed Sweden although the overall theme is misogyny, signalled in the dialogue when Mikael sells the mystery project to Lisbeth, as much as in scenes that sometimes seem gratuitous. But the piece is rounded-off into being a character based drama, ending, as the film had started, with a cinematic landscape shot in snow. And it is the concentration on Lisbeth’s character throughout the film, including in the final enigmatic scene on old European streets, which makes a strong basis for the sequels to come.

MG

With echoes of Glory from American Cinema to Bruce Springsteen, and full of the flavour of Escape European Travel brings, The Substantive Columnist Mel Gomes’ e-book ‘Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley’ is available  from Amazon and Smashwords. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.