It’s that time of year again, the time when Oscar buzz starts and films trying to get in on the conversation pop up in cinemas around the world. Little-engines-that-could from the art house go toe to toe with big budget visionary projects in hopes that the Academy will pump them up for a trophy in a few months time.
And in the middle of it all, you get The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a remake of the Swedish book-to-film that captured the world’s imagination in 2009.
This rendition is essentially the same dark tale as its source material, the story of disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) trying to solve a decades-old murder with the help of the damaged and eccentric Lisbeth Salandar (Rooney Mara). The biggest difference is that the Sweden in Hollywood’s take feels decidedly more Americanized than the Sweden in Sweden’s take, but that’s probably to be expected.
Blomkvist is hired by an aging corporate figurehead to investigate the murder of his niece in the late-60s, and eventually ends up hiring Salander when he needs an assistant and finds that she did the background check on him. The two become ensnared in a spiral of lies and misdirections branching throughout the family they’re investigating, before things finally become clear near the end of the film.
For the most part, Tattoo is alright. It’s not earthshattering, not one of the best of the year as so many seem to think, but it’s a decent enough mystery with interesting characters and an engaging story. Craig does his job well enough, and Mara is above average in her portrayal of the deeply disturbed Lisbeth.
The Sweden in Hollywood’s take feels decidedly more Americanized than the Sweden in Sweden’s take, but that’s probably to be expected.
One of the more appealing aspects is the direction at the hands of David Fincher (The Social Network, Zodiac, Se7en). He helms the project with a dingy style that brings out the overall seediness of all the divergent strands of the story. Some of the more graphic scenes, including some intense torture and sexual assault, are toe-curling for how visceral they are and how unapologetically they’re shot. This isn’t for the feint of heart, and Fincher’s willingness to be grimy when grime is in order is what makes him among the best at his craft.
Still, at the end of the day Tattoo feels more about style than substance. All too often people will look at individual aspects of a film and suggest that the film on the whole is great because those aspects were great. In this case, Fincher is great and will be entirely deserving of a Best Director Oscar nomination, while Mara would surely warrant a nod for her work as a Supporting Actress.
However when the Academy Award nominations are announced in early 2012, expect to see this one up in a whole host of categories. That speaks more to the hype than it does to the product, as this is a good movie that’s great in certain areas, but is surely no better than any other well-done mystery you’ve seen.