A lot of us read the book and saw the Swedish film. So what does the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo have to offer? Answer: director David Fincher.
Not that Rooney Mara's Oscar-nominated performance as Stieg Larsson's crazed heroine, Lisbeth Salander, isn't brilliant; so, too, was Noomi Rapace's portrayal in the earlier, Swedish movie. In fact, she shined in spite of the production. That one was essentially made for Swedish TV — although it was released elsewhere in theaters — and while faithful to the best-selling novel, it was formulaic.
Mara's interpretation was enhanced by Fincher's smart filmmaking. Everything moves in Dragon. The Swedish version too often got bogged down trying to be faithful to the novel.
Watching somebody hack into someone's account is not the most interesting thing to watch, but Fincher was able to make the story of Facebook engaging in The Social Network, and in Girl he's able to cut through the stuff that might work on the page but would be dull on the screen.
Fincher also knew what he had in Mara and smartly focuses on her.
Lisbeth is a little too fantastical of a character to believe, unless you find her in a book or a movie. A computer whiz, martial-arts expert, antisocial and very sexual, she's one step from crazy. Now there are circumstances and reasons, of course, but that doesn't mean she's not a bit of a psychopath. Still, Mara makes you feel for her.
If you don't know it by now, there is no reason to recount the plot of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first part of a trilogy. Underneath the mystery is a story involving numerous crimes against women. Some of the scenes are quite uncomfortable to watch, but Fincher — from a screenplay by Steven Zaillian — is able to convey Lisbeth's private horror in a way that resonates long after the action ceases.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo retails for $30.99 or $40.99 Blu-ray.