“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (18s)
David Fincher has directed some very good crime films during his distinguished career, including Se7en (1995) and Zodiac (2007), but it’s unlikely The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (18s) will feature on a show-reel of his finest moments when the Academy finally gets around to presenting him with a lifetime achievement award. A remake of the Swedish film of the same name from 2009, and remarkably faithful to both it and the Stieg Larsson novel that serves as its source material, the story finds disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) commissioned by a wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), to investigate the disappearance of the man’s niece some forty years previously. Blomqvist is aided in his search by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an unorthodox investigator who specialises in computer hacking. The fatal flaw in the film, however, is that while Salander is by some distance the most original element of the tale, the story doesn’t actually require her presence in order for Blomqvist to solve the mystery. Meanwhile, her originality should not be confused with plausibility: shockingly rebellious, and with good reason, Salander’s memorable physical appearance is the antithesis of the successful investigator’s ability to blend in to the point of invisibility. Moreover, a crucial plot twist, in which she meekly submits to a sexual predator and so sets in train most of the secondary plot, is entirely out of character. That said, Mara is bracingly forthright as the unlovable Salander, and Craig puts in a solid if largely unmemorable performance. Fincher crafts a handsome-looking film which offers a beautifully bleak Sweden, and presents us with a formidable cast (Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgaard, Steven Berkoff and Joely Richardson all have meaty roles), but ultimately the story, which is essentially a creaking old Agatha Christie-style ‘locked-room’ mystery, defeats even this most inventive and idiosyncratic of auteur directors. - Declan Burke

  This review first appeared in the Irish Examiner.