David Fincher doesn't need great source material to turn in celluloid excellence: The Social Network proved that if one does than something great will occur, but the original Dragon Tattoo novels are not such material.
The Swedish adaptation left me feeling cold back in 2009, but given Fincher's track record, I felt like I owed this film a shot. When the opening scene of the film opens with Vanger's phone call, I started to get antsy, is this going to be a shot-for-shot redux? No. No, it's not, the pulsing opening credits scored to Karen O's "The Immigrant Song" made me quite aware of that.
Harriet Vanger has been missing for the better part of forty years, given that piece of information the fact that Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) keeps receiving portraits from his niece is disconcerting. Enter Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). Facing a major libel suit and perhaps jail time, the last thing the journalist wants to do is add another opportunity to be wrong again.
Before Vanger hands the investigation over to Blomkvist to find out why Harriet may have disappeared—or who made her disappear—he needs to have the disgraced man thoroughly vetted. Enter Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Her collection of piercings, mohawk, and goth attire may suggest she is not capable of such a profession, but she is the most successful investigator of the firm.
Mara's Salander is entirely composed of scar tissue. Don't get too close, or the urge to run becomes too much for her to resist. When Blomkvist offers her a chance to catch a "killer of women" the layer of tissue is torn again, but this time she doesn't run. She fights.
Noomi Rapace was good, but without her the rest of that cast could effectively be used to move furniture. The problem with Rapace's turn as Lisbeth is we are left behind the curtain as her transformation is unfurled. Here she is playing the victim, but it never seems in Rapace's milieu. The transformation is easier to accept with Mara. Seemingly demure, when Lisbeth finally snaps it shakes the audience. Watching, you think to yourself, "I never thought Mara could be this woman!"
In Seven, Fincher keeps evil faceless as to suggest that around any rainy street could lie a psychopath. Sweden's landscapes may not provide an abundance of rain, but the eerie feeling is similar. Whoever killed Harriet Vanger could very well be mere steps behind Blomkvist or Lisbeth. Fincher is a man of craft and by this point of his career he knows exactly what gears to put in rotation as the haunting score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross gently invites your paranoia to take control.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo presents an antithesis of Fincher's last genre outing, Zodiac. That 2007 opus illuminated that no matter the lengths men go to search for answers, they appear forever out of reach. Here, the chilly atmosphere of muted Sweden would suggest that with any digging at all, the answers lie just below the surface of the ice.