Fincher can only slather high-grade attention-grabbing gloss onto Larsson’s crude pseudo-feminist turd.
Great films have been made from much less than Stieg Larsson’s posthumously published novel. But with all the fanfare surrounding his Millennium Trilogy over the last few years, not to mention the high profile of the popular Swedish-language adaptations, it’s hard to get too excited about this opportune Hollywood retake.
But wait, David Fincher’s directing. It’s scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network), scripted by Steven Zaillian (Moneyball) and lensed by Jeff Cronenweth (Fight Club). That means hyper-kinetic kicks layered with neo-noir hues and a thumping electronic pulse, right? Well, yes, but it’s just polish. High-grade attention-grabbing gloss slathered liberally onto Larsson’s crude pseudo-feminist turd.
Rooney Mara is the eponymous ink-branded heroine with a troubled past who abets Daniel Craig’s disgraced journo Mikael Blomkvist in a missing persons case in rural Sweden (Fincher shrewdly retains the original setting). With his investigative nous and her mad cyber-hacking skills, it’s not long before the pair starts to unravel the sinister mystery that’s haunted the affluent Vanger clan for almost 40 years.
Mara’s metamorphosis from mousey girl-next-door to nipple-pierced punk pin-up is remarkable; Fincher’s punishing auditioning process proving fruitful. Yet underneath all the chain-smoking, motorcycle-shredding minxery is an actress who exudes a porcelain virtue.
That’s not to say Mara doesn’t give a ballsy, credible performance; it’s more that her Lisbeth Salander is inherently vulnerable when measured against Noomi Rapace’s androgynous meta-siren.
As such, Mara’s Salander can be read as a naked endorsement of the source novel’s voyeuristic and misogynistic subtext. While any undercurrent of sexual gratification derived from the objectification and torture of women is likely to remain a grey area, one thing is crystal: this frosty tale of murder, scandal and sub-Jonathan Creek twists, coupled with the news that Martin Scorsese is set to take on Jo Nesbø’s 'The Snowman', suggests that the Scandi potboiler boom is only just getting started.
Fincher doesn’t appear to have pulled a single punch on his welcome return to the crime/thriller domain.
But he can only gloss over Larsson’s rancid source novel.
Immaculate style, questionable substance.