Director: David Fincher
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic
Synopsis: The U.S. version of the popular Swedish novel by Stieg Larrson, Fincher puts his own styling to the mysterious history of the Vanger family and the investigators called in to solve a 40-year-old mystery. One investigator is disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig), the other a young girl named Lisbeth Salander (Mara) whom is incredibly capable despite being declared a ward of the state.
In many cases, American remakes of films and series that have been successful overseas in their native countries have proved to be only a mere shadow of the original source material. It is certainly the rare exception when this is not the case. For television, the exception which springs to mind in The Office, which has become its own successful US series. Thankfully, for a story as incredible as Larrson’s, the American version of the first chapter in his trilogy is suitably thrilling and incredibly watchable.
A lot of the reason for this would have to be Fincher’s eye for detail, and his ability to make a film like a piece of art. The film looks incredible, and it oozes menace when necessary, never more so than the most talked about scene in the movie. I will refrain from saying too much for those not familiar with the story, but in THAT scene Fincher does enough to make it disturbing, as by all right’s it should be, but never takes it to the type of excess that could be considered gratuitous.
Another plus is the stellar cast. It is this that really makes the film distinct from the Swedish adaptations from just a few years ago. For a start, both Craig and Mara have a physicality that matches the descriptions of the characters in the books. In addition to this they are both really talented, and really do a lot with the script they were given. One small complaint however is Craig’s accent. In a film where everyone is attempting a Swedish accent to at least make the film seems like it belongs in the country of origin, Craig uses his native English accent. This baffles even further, given that in his career he has successfully adopted other accents, most notably in Munich and in Defiance. Mara however really makes the role of Salander her own, being distinct from Noomi Rapace’s original career defining performance, and making one of her own.
The more minor roles are also bursting with talent. One of my complaints about the Swedish trilogy had always been the seemingly weak portrayal of Blomkvists partner and chief editor, Erika Berger. Wright however really gives the role true life, being sensual while also being an evidently capable business woman, and one whom has earnt her position of respect. The key players in the Vanger family are also beautifully portrayed. Plummer is brilliant as tortured patriarch Henrik, whilst Skarsgard shows his usual skill with his role as nephew and business manager Martin. It is also great to see an old favourite Bond villain in another film, the highly underrated Berkoff as family lawyer Frode.
Fincher’s Girl is not without its flaws. Most prominently, there are changes from the book, especially one big one at the ending. I fail to fathom why these changes were made. One not familiar with the source material will probably still be blown away. However to those whom love the full intricacy of Larrson’s original mystery, such as myself, will be put off. However, Fincher does show he has a handle on the material as a whole trilogy, introducing story elements that actually appeared in later novels. I am sure all the changes will be debated endlessly, and purists in particular will be upset. That said, the Swedish adaptions also made changes that had the potential to upset. What is perhaps most important in this process is capturing the atmosphere and mystery of the novels, and judged on this basis, Fincher’s film is the better of the available adaptations.
3.5 stars out of 5