Director: David Fincher

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson

Certificate: 18

Synopsis: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is the first film in Columbia Pictures’ three-picture adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s literary blockbuster ‘The Millennium Trilogy.’ Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.

Billed as the ‘feel bad movie of the holiday season,’ or something along those lines in a trailer that debuted many months ago, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is based on the first part of the 65 million copy-selling Millennium trilogy of books by the late Scandinavian author Stieg Larsson. This is in fact the second time that THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO has indeed found its way to the big screen following the 2008 Swedish-language version, a film that in its own right, was pretty darned good. Usually an English language version of a very recently released movie would make me shudder with sheer annoyance at its presence, but at the helm of this epic is one David Fincher, director of such gems as SEVEN, FIGHT CLUB and last year’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK.

The story of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is as follows. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has fallen foul of a pretty serious libel lawsuit, seeing as a result him losing his life savings and indeed his professional reputation. After taking a sabbatical from the magazine in which his libelous work was printed, Blomkvist takes a hard casghprivate case for rich tycoon Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) who wants him to investigate the death of a women nearly forty years earlier. During his investigation, Blomkvist enlists the help of young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), and together they unearth more they bargained for…

As I said earlier, should David Fincher and indeed SCHINDLER’S LIST screenwriter Steven Zaillian, had not been attached as director to this project, I could have quite happily let this pass by. For me, the Swedish version more than impressed me. That said, thinking about it more, any further version would have to go some to better that movie in my opinion, no matter who the filmmaker at the helm. Even though Fincher and Zaillian more than deliver the goods, this isn’t their movie, and as much as the original ‘Dragon Tattoo’ belonged to Noomi Rapace, Fincher’s two-years-on English language update, belongs to Rooney Mara. It’s that character that makes this franchise, and Mara, despite my early preconceptions is simply outstanding.

As with all of Fincher’s films, the film has a very distinct look, and the tone of the piece, both in terms of story and visual look. Yellow features very prominently in the film, and clearly stands out against the very dull, monotone colours of Fincher’s modern day Sweden. True, Jeff Cronenweth’s cinematography is excellent, and a very different look has been applied to this film than the previous film, which I will add is unfair to compare it to as Fincher has gone right back to the source material, the original novel, rather than rehash the Swedish version.

Be warned, Fincher’s ‘Tattoo’ is much darker than the last effort, and even I (knowing what was coming) found some scenes a little difficult to watch, particularly when we are first introduced to Lisbeth and that scene with her new guardian Nils Bjurmanm takes place around a third of the way in. That scene took me back to Fincher’s work in SEVEN, where the crimes are described after they happen, a lot of which happens here too (in much detail). You have been warned.

Combine Fincher’s wonderful direction, the fantastic, atmospherics, dirty sounds of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and some fine acting from Mara and Craig (who’s wonderful way of wearing his reading glasses when not using them really baffles), plus the support of veterans Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård and glorified cameos from Joely Richardson, an almost unrecognisable Robin Wright and perfect turns from Steven Berkoff, Goran Visnjic and even Alan Dale, you get possibly one of the best films of 2011, hitting the screen in the final hours of the year.

It’s graphic, it’s violent, it’s got tons of nudity – everything a proper adaptation of the novel should be. Most importantly, it’s another outstanding piece of filmmaking from Fincher, adding another masterpiece to his distinctive cannon of work.

A must see this Boxing Day…

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is released in the UK on 26th December 2011.