At The Movies

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

DIRECTED BY: David Fincher

STARRING: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard

CERT: 18

I haven’t read the phenomenally popular Millennium novels by the late Stieg Larsson, but the first in the series, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, was made into a fine feature film in 2009 by director Niels Arden Oplev. The Swedish production starred Michael Nyqvist as the reporter Blomqvist, and the excellent Noomi Rapace (currently starring as Madam Heron in Sherlock Holmes) as the titular heroine, Lisbeth Salander.

It’s dark stuff, crossing the old fashioned murder mystery with a somewhat more modern and graphic tale of torture and serial killings, with a bit of ancient religion thrown into the mix.

So when it came time for the boys in Hollywood to turn out the American version, well, if director David Fincher’s name wasn’t the only one on their list, it was at the top. With Zodiac and Seven on his CV, he’s been down this road a few times and he has the form. And he brings plenty of it to the party here.

In Fincher’s story, Daniel Craig steps into the formidable shoes of journalist Michael Blomqvist, who’s taken on a corrupt corporation and found himself on the wrong end of a libel judgment.

Disgraced and out of work, he’s offered a job by elderly millionaire Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), whose extended family live a secluded existence on their own private island. Henrik’s favorite niece Harriet disappeared without trace 40 years ago, and every day since he’s been trying to find out what happened. But he’s turned up nothing, and now he’s pushing on, and wants Blomqvsit to have a shot at solving the case.

So the reporter moves to the island and sets up base in a cold old cottage, where he papers the wall with pictures and notes as he hacks at the family tree, uncovering old secrets and skeletons, including historical ties to the Nazi party.

But the going is slow until a few unexpected hints turn up and Blomqvist hooks up with Lisbeth Salander (Mara), a professional computer hacker with ties of her own to the Vangers and a past that’s almost as grim. Most recently, that includes a violent, abusive probation officer who didn’t really know who he was dealing with.

An unlikely pair, the middle-aged journalist and the young goth biker chick might never have turned up in Agatha Christie’s worst nightmares. But they would have done the old lady proud with their knack for the sleuthing, and for avoiding getting their heads blown off by the mad brother. Though you get the feeling Miss Marple would never have made that crucial late mistake. Then again, there are dark, terrible places she never had to go, places that do bad things to your head.

I don’t know how fans of the book will take to Fincher’s film, but it’s a fine thriller, and it covers almost the same ground as the Swedish movie, so I’m guessing it doesn’t stray far from the novel.

Technically, it’s a better film than the earlier one, and Fincher’s talent for mood and suspense is superior to Oplev’s. Though in all fairness, it’s probably superior to everyone else’s too.

But Oplev’s film had a certain heart to it that’s missing in this one, some warmth or humanity or vulnerability in the characters. Maybe that’s partly a casting thing, though Daniel Craig does a decent job and Rooney Mara (who previously worked with Fincher on The Social Network as the girl who dumped Zuckerburg) gives a fine performance as Lisbeth. There’s just somehow less depth to them, like they’re a coldly manufactured item rather than the genuine article – like a decent cover of a great song.

Certainly worth checking out but not the real thing.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol


STARRING: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner


There are some of us who thought the Mission: Impossible series should have been put to bed after day one.

Well, I’ve been wrong before, and now the latest Mission director has proved me wrong again. Impressive stuff for a man making his feature film debut, but then, Brad Bird is not exactly a stranger to the movies. He’s been working in animation for years, and directed two of the modern animated classics – The Iron Giant for Warners, and The Incredibles for Pixar. He also made Pixar’s Ratatouille, but we can’t hold that against him forever.

His contribution to the Mission: Impossible universe will not be remembered for its fine attention to story and character, though he doesn’t do a shabby job there, all said. No, it will mostly be remembered for the fun, and that’s something that’s been missing in action since, well, since always. It helps that this is a magnificent action spectacle, too.

The plot finds the new crew – including tough cookie Jane Carter (Patton) and wiseguy computer nerd Benji (Pegg) – breaking old team leader Ethan (Cruise) out of prison in Russia. There’s a bit of an emergency involving nuclear codes and a satellite, and a mad fellow called Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist – both of the original Dragon Tattoo stars have now found Hollywood fame) who has notions about blowing up the world.

The fireworks start in Moscow, an unfortunate incident involving the Kremlin that sees the IMF team disavowed by the US government. So the boys and girls – later joined by the mysterious Brandt (Jeremy Renner) – must go it alone to save the day, with the help of some very nifty gizmos and gadgets, and a special pair of reinforced underpants.

Their globetrotting ultimately brings them to Dubai, for the simple reason that if Tom Cruise is going to go playing on a skyscraper, it’s got to be the tallest building in the world.

As I said, it’s all about the fun and the spectacle. So just enjoy.