David Fincher’s masterful take on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is an icy, ruthless, ethereal, visceral, dark and violent movie, powered by heart and humanity.
The opening credits are wildly inventive, an extraordinary, visionary sequence set to Trent Reznor and Karen O’s thrillingly high-velocity cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song that perfectly encapsulates everything the movie is about in a twistedly brilliant 2 minutes 45 seconds. From here Fincher shows absolute command over his material, delivering a profoundly great crime movie that flies through its almost three hour running time. In the final, haunting moments, the ghost of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s soundtrack drifts like breath in frozen air into a beautiful cover version of Bryan Ferry’s Is Your Love Strong Enough. The cover is by Reznor’s other band, How To Destroy Angels. They transform Ferry’s original into an icy lullaby, a tremulous, haunting dream that slow-burns to an inferno.
Working from Steven Zaillian’s comprehensive yet extremely nimble screenplay, Fincher crafts a masterpiece, and draws performances of remarkable depth from all of his actors. Daniel Craig has never been better, all subtlety and nuance, cold blue eyes, impeccable styling, brisk to the point of ruthlessness, warmth flickering over the cracking ice of his heart. But the movie truly belongs to Rooney Mara. She dissolves into the role, disappearing completely in a way that rarely truly happens. She vanishes into the iconic character like Heath Ledger did with The Joker, with total psychological, emotional and physical commitment. Her performance is startling, raw, and mesmerizing.
Throughout, Reznor and Ross’s score drifts over the proceedings like the coldest snow, steadily and beautifully falling through an increasingly howling wind. They won the Oscar for Best Soundtrack for Fincher’s The Social Network; it would be a crime if they didn’t win it again for this.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a beautifully sculpted, stylish thriller that, even with the epic grandeur of its visual and sonic architecture, moves incredibly quickly and deftly through the complexities of its narrative structure. It is, quite simply, brilliant, gripping and hugely entertaining from start to finish.