Let’s cut to the chase, the character Lisbeth Salandar played this time by Rooney Mara is the reason this film is a must see. Stieg Larson’s anti-hero is arguably one of the best modern characters around and she’s brought to life with such fire and interest that she should delight the connoisseur and casual film-goer alike. For those familiar with the 2009 Swedish version of this film, you can read that Rooney Mara doesn’t just match Noomi Rapace in playing Salandar but manages to bring enough uniqueness to be just as intoxicating.
To call this film a remake is a bit of a disservie, Fincher’s film is so much more. As seasoned Director of crime stories (Seven, Zodiac) he brings a mastery to the film that the source material really does deserve. It’s more faithful to Stieg Larson’s original, and you could happily watch both the Swedish version and this one and get something different from both without feeling like you’re suffering from Deja Vu.
The story centres on the relationship between two characters: Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth Salandar (Rooney Mara). They come together to investigate a forty year old murder, and in the complex twists and turns the two forge a unique relationship. It’s more intimate in this film that it is in the original, you get much more insight into how to two of them operate and the dynamic of their affection for each other. Daniel Craig brings much to Blomkvist that was missing in the original, and the film is better for it.
In fact, as a whole this version is far superior in characterisation. More time is given to the background and the elements of the story previously left out, giving the ensemble cast much more to do, bringing the tale to life in a far more vivid fashion. Henrik Vagner (Christopher Plumber) and Martin Vagnar (Stellan Skarsgard) lead the supporting cast who all bring the right tone to the dark story. In essence that is what this film is, the absurd and dark relationships between each of the characters and the Vagnar family, it’s very human which is what makes the story so disturbing.
Disturbing might also be an understatement however. It’s an entertaining film, but that word is used lightly as some of the content is very confronting. It gets away with it because Lisbeth is such a wonderful character, even in her darkest most sadistic moments she can illicit feelings from the audience you shouldn’t really be feeling. She is a superhero for lack of a better word, and Fincher knows it, even opening the film with a Bond like sequence. I felt that was a misstep, but the rest of the film doesn’t stoop to that sense of sensationalism.
The opening is not the only misstep, there are some key moments where the Swedish version presents a more interesting takes on things, especially at the fiery climax. You could also feel that at some points this film loses some of it’s momentum, although that may also be a result of knowing the story already. It’s not enough to give it anything less than five stars however, there is more here in these 158 minutes than most films could ever hope to offer.
The soundtrack and cinematic style is dark and edgy, just off-beat enough to suit the unusual character of Lisbeth without becoming an arthouse production. It’s the treatment that the source material deserves, and fingers crossed the entire trilogy will receive the same due. If you’re on the fence about seeing this film, then see it. If you really don’t want to see this film, see it. You won’t experience a story like this with such a superb character as Lisbeth very often.