Unlike many, I went to see David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with no first hand knowledge of the plot, books or the Swedish trilogy of films. And while I am not a fan of Fincher, I respect his style and ability as a filmmaker. However, even as a non-fan, I was shocked to find a film that while technically brilliant, was quite bland and boring from a storytelling perspective.
There is a long history of great filmmakers turning bland, derivative stories into masterpieces of cinema. Take Kubrick, Scorsese and Demme for example; however Fincher does not succeed where those filmmakers did. Fincher is able to flex his technical muscles as a filmmaker with this film, but unfortunately, the plot is so utterly contrived and badly paced, that it became a chore to sit through the screening.
Based on the hit Millennium series by the late Stieg Larsson, Fincher’s take feels all too attached to the original material that holds the film down like an anchor. While at times it feels like a brave genre exercise, without the freedom of complete control, the story and pace keep it from being anything more than a standard serial killer film. It may pretend to be of more importance, but the obvious reveal, and repetitive, confusing investigation show its true colours as just another procedural.
Much of the buzz around this film was concentrated on how the relatively unknown Rooney Mara would do in the now infamous role of Lisbeth Salander. Her performance as a disturbed, private investigator is not only brave, but the best thing about the film. The entire cast does the best they can with subpar material, but Mara is the only one who is able to truly shine in her performance. She has shown herself as a true talent to watch, and if anything, this film has at least given us this actress and her great performance.
The power of her performance actually becomes an issue at points, as the film slows to a crawl whenever she is not on screen. It is a real shame, as I was expecting at least to be entertained, but instead I felt frustration more than anything else. When the reveal finally comes, instead of shock, it was disappointment with an obvious and boring twist. And maybe even worse, is the fact the film does not end there, but has an almost twenty minute epilogue that drags the film down even further.
As disappointing as it was, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is surely not an embarrassment for Fincher as he has already signed on for two more films. It is a shame, however that a filmmaker of this caliber has decided to lower himself to unworthy material instead of trying for something truly great. The incredible cinematography and camera work can only do so much, and with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo his strengths just are not strong enough to keep this film above water.