The best reason to see the new version is the riveting mix of physical vulnerability and psychological armor that Mara brings to the already famous role, besting Noomi Rapace's take on the character. (Mara was just Golden Globe nominated) Yet, despite the successful Lisbeth reinvention and Fincher's considerable visual prowess as a filmmaker, the whole of the story underwhelms. The plotty patchwork storytelling which has always been better suited to a television miniseries, frustratingly keeps the only two characters we truly care apart (Lisbeth and Bomkvist) apart for what seems like an entire hour. Considering that Fincher has been to the serial killer well twice before to stunning results (Se7en and Zodiac — three times previously if you count Madonna's "Bad Girl" video), one wonders why he needed another genre go round with an already familiar property. His previous sicko killer films had redemptive humanity in their heroes but this time, there's not much differentiating between the killer's sadism and the storytelling itself. The source material's creepy sexism (Girls and their Daddies, oh my!) is also tough to stomach. Crime films should be unsettling but maybe they shouldn't give themselves over so fully to the sadism at the core of their subject matter. (For what it's worth Shame was recently rated NC-17 for its abundant consensual sex. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which is just as sexually graphic but often non-consensual and violent received a R from those reliable perverts at the MPAA).
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo begins with the hottest, sickest music video you've seen in opening title form since Fincher's own Se7en (1995). When the title sequence ended I wondered if I had dreamt it. Craig and Mara intertwine, explode and drip with inky-black inhuman abandon, while cable cords rope around them with digital reptilian menace. The opening is so transfixingly hot, that the instantly chilly Scandinavian winter that follows is a shock to the system, like molten lava suddenly hardened into black rock. The movie chases but never quite manages to catch that sequence's nightmarish hallucinatory tail. It would be a gross distortion to say that the movie never catches fire again, but Fincher is more concerned with the deep chill. He'll take you to hell but this one is frozen over.