FILM REVIEW: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (18)

Familiarity breeds nagging comparisons rather than contempt in David Fincher’s English-language remake of Niels Arden Oplev’s acclaimed crime thriller, adapted from the best-seller by Stieg Larsson.

It’s been less than two years since British audiences gnawed their nails to the cuticle watching the graphically violent original - the opening chapter of a trilogy also comprising The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest.

The Scandinavian co-production was grimy and gritty, and deservedly garnered lead actress Noomi Rapace numerous plaudits for her mesmerising portrayal of an emotionally damaged computer hacker.

Fincher’s version oozes style from the eye-catching opening credits, which marries Trent Reznor’s electro re-working of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song with startling images of oil slithering over body parts and modern technology.

The Oscar-nominated director delivers an eye-catching cinematic experience, aided by cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, who captures the stark beauty and fragility of the wintry Swedish locales.

Editing is snappy too for the set pieces, including fisticuffs in a subway station and a night-time chase along perilous roads.

However, plot mechanics which creaked two years ago still haven’t been oiled by screenwriter Steven Zaillian.

He remains faithful to Larsson’s novel, including unsettling scenes of sexual abuse, but does depart dramatically from the source text for a more cute and conventional ending.

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is found guilty of slandering a prominent industrialist in his magazine Millennium, edited by on-off lover Erika Berger (Robin Wright).

With his reputation in tatters, Mikael accepts a commission from the reclusive Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer).

The old man is haunted by the disappearance of his great-niece Harriet almost 40 years ago and he hopes that the discredited journalist will be able to deduce who abducted and killed the teenager.

Taking up residence on the Vanger estate, the hack begins his investigation and he is soon aided by computer expert Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who has valuable insights to the case.

Together, the unlikely sleuths follow the trail of secrets and lies, trusting no one as skeletons tumble out of the Vanger closet.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is as emotionally cold as the barren lands where the case unfolds and Fincher’s film isn’t helped by Craig’s charisma-free portrayal of a man on a mission.

His fleeting, half-hearted attempts at an accent are blown away by the icy wind.

Thankfully, Mara is beguiling as the tattooed and pierced avenging angel with a brilliant mind, although she falls short of Rapace’s heartbreaking interpretation.

Supporting performances are solid, notably Plummer as a wily patriarch, who beholds the rest of his clan with disdain.

Audiences unfamiliar with Larsson’s book or the original film will guess the final twist identity well before Fincher’s film spills the blood of the guilty.

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: if you’ve seen the original 6/10, if you haven’t 7/10Released: December 26 (UK & Ireland), 158 mins