Men who hate women

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

She hates the men who hate women.

She hates the men who hate women.

Rated 3.0

The main draw of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher edition, is that we want to see what this director will do with it, although we can sort of guess that the crucial thing he’ll do is make a shitload of money.

It’s still not even three years since the first book in Stieg Larsson’s posthumously published, sensation-spawning Millennium Trilogy became a Swedish film, but getting over our remake gag reflex somehow seems easier when the remaker in question is a luxe stylist of serial-killer thrillers. Here, Fincher’s supremely slick opening-credits sequence does at least suggest a new way to see this: not as merely another unnecessary English-language effigy of European box-office success, but rather some kind of radical nouveau Bond flick, complete with Daniel Craig, as done by the director of Se7en and Zodiac.

As such it’s neither as silly nor as tedious, respectively, as the two aforementioned, and no disgrace to the original Swedish version of itself, for whatever that’s worth. We didn’t need salacious posters or propulsive trailers to detect that Dragon Tattoo was right up Fincher’s dark alley. The whole setup suits his pervy predilections all too well: In an atmosphere foul with family secrets, sexual violence and murder, a dubiously disgraced journalist (Craig) and a disturbed computer hacker (Rooney Mara) form an unlikely crime-solving alliance. The mood is by turns brooding and cheeky. The method is technically exacting. The temperature is not warm.

It begins with the journalist, one Mikael Blomkvist, summoned to a nest of wealthy Swedish industrialists. They have their own private island and ample skeleton space in the family closets—or basement torture chambers, as the case may be. Their reigning patriarch, an elderly tycoon played by Christopher Plummer, has commissioned a biography of himself, but really he wants to investigate the presumed murder of a beloved niece several decades ago. He summarizes the rest of the family, which includes Stellan Skarsgård, as “the most detestable collection of people you will ever meet.” That’s a bold claim given Blomkvist’s experience writing about very detestable people, but he does his reporterly legwork and determines it to be fair enough.

The girl with the dragon tattoo, Lisbeth Salander, is not a girl; she’s a woman. It is worth pointing out (again) that the original title of Larsson’s book was Men Who Hate Women, and that the movie-titling modification has not exactly struck a blow against misogyny. Also, Lisbeth Salander is a mystery. She seems rather lean and lithe for someone who apparently subsists only on Happy Meals, but as she explains, she’s lucky enough to have a high metabolism. Otherwise: less lucky. Somehow we infer her family to be a collection nearly as detestable as the tycoon’s, and in any case she is now a ward of the state, whose caseworker also is her rapist. In one scene, her T-shirt reads: “Fuck You, You Fucking Fuck.” It is possible that she’s a fan of Blue Velvet.

She first encounters Blomkvist as the checker of his background. Then she becomes his assistant, then his lover. He already has a lover, who is also his editor and is played by Robin Wright, but that doesn’t much matter, just as it doesn’t much matter that Wright troubles herself to affect a Swedish accent and Craig doesn’t.

What matters is that Salander proves a tech-savvy forensic investigator, and also an effectual vengeance dispenser. Making good on but not much considering its “Evil shall with evil be expelled” tagline, the movie works briskly through its sadistic cycle of brutal violence. Some credit for its efficiency seems due to screenwriter Steven Zaillian, but as we’ve established, this was a tale promiscuous enough to freely drift between its tellers, and now here it is as a film by David Fincher—a very dark space in which actors lurk and give off glints of their charisma.

Fincher’s faith in Mara has been clear since he cast her as the decisively dissatisfied girlfriend who set The Social Network in motion. Maybe Facebook will decide how her pixie-punk credentials compare with those of her Dragon Tattoo predecessor Noomi Rapace—recently graduated, alas, to window-dressing Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Not all men hate women. But some could learn to love them more.