If you’re used to crime novelist Stieg Larsson’s ‘softly, softly’ approach to storytelling, where plot pile drivers unravel at their own pace then David Fincher’s remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will pinch in the opening few frames. A hugely unnecessary Bond-like title sequence lopes off the screen as your ears get bashed about by Trent Reznor, pointing that just because Daniel Craig’s in the film it doesn’t mean we need liquid nitrogen females introducing who made it.

Fincher sets his stall out from the off, with everything tweaked up a notch – this girl’s going to bite harder and faster than Niels Arden Oplev’s did just three years ago, and we’re coming along for the ride whether we like it or not. What we get is Bond as Mikael Blomkvist, one of Stockholm’s best investigative journalists (you can tell by Craig’s incessant glasses ‘tick’ he so clumsily provides) and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, the tattooed hacker with an attitude as sharp has her fringe.

Both are embroiled in the now familiar missing person’s case that takes in serial killers, Nazi sympathisers and some serious Stockholm scenery. It somehow works. After settling into the frenetic pace, Craig’s (un) easy charm and Mara’s quietly cutting Lisbeth, Fincher manages to carry us through a relentless opening hour.

All the sparse, steady detail and subtlety of the original is sucked out, leaving you gasping for air, but the film we’re left with is vital and raw. Fincher knew Mara could play feisty ever since he hired in Social Network to terrorise Mark Zuckerberg as an angry ex girlfriend, and here she flirts expertly with the extreme.

Her sexual menace motivated by years of abuse, the character is both brittle and fierce and played to perfection. Fincher also knew that Lisbeth’s desire to bring down the bad guys was because of her horrific past, so we get more back story, more sexual brutality and an emotional wallop unlike the original film. It’s certainly not better, but this is a remake that finally serves a purpose.

By Ian Roebuck

Originally published in issue 34 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. January 2012.