It’s easy to identify the elements that make ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ a “typical” David Fincher film. It has a distinctive sense of place and wallows in dread drenched mood and atmosphere. Like ‘Zodiac’ (and its counterpart ‘All the President’s Men’), it glories in dramatizing “process” and the gnawing obsession that derives from wanting to know the potentially unknowable. And the evil at its core is both darkly fascinating and palpably repugnant.
The film’s biggest allure – and what makes it an absolutely ideal project for Fincher – lies in the unforgettable character of Lisbeth Salander; in her, Fincher has crafted the ultimate portrait in his growing gallery of wounded and defiant outcasts.
There are quibbles along the way (a muted and anticlimactic final act that continues on after you feel the train has already left the station, a structure that seems to languish over certain moments while unnecessarily speeding through others, a Daniel Craig – who is otherwise magnificent – who breaks from the rest of the cast by playing his Swede with his native British accent). But Fincher’s meticulous and involving storytelling powers are evident throughout, as is a queasy and gripping sense of ugly male dominance, and the defenses this particular woman employs – sexually, politically, or otherwise – to combat it.
Is it better than the original Swedish version? The Swedish film feels more straight-laced and less imaginatively rendered, but the central story and lead performances are no less gripping. Neither version is obviously superior to the other; preference probably comes down to the most miniscule degrees of taste.