The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher, 156 mins (18) **
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, 133 mins, Brad Bird (12A) ***

 

Hiring David Fincher to direct the American remake of The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, the first part of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, must have seemed a smart move by the producers. The gothic matter of family secrets, ritual murders, dogged sleuthing and state corruption looks an ideal fit for a film-maker who's delved deep into the psycho-horrors of Se7en and Zodiac. Yet while you can depend on Fincher's immaculate visual style as much as on his nose for moral putrefaction, it's hard to see how he has enhanced the Swedish original, or even much changed it – aside from getting rid of the subtitles that US audiences find so tricky.

It begins, topically enough, with a journalist in disgrace. Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has come off worse in a libel suit against a corporate bigwig, a loss which has bankrupted him and may put his campaigning magazine Millennium out of business.

In order to claw back some self-respect (and cash) Blomkvist accepts an invitation from a wealthy retired industrialist, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to re-open a cold case: the disappearance and probable murder of his beloved niece Harriet back in 1966. This entails a trip to the Vanger estate in north Sweden, where the temperature is as chilly as the relations between the various Vangers, a mix of reclusive old Nazis and frightful termagants who don't want a journo rummaging in the family history.

Meanwhile, Blomkvist gets his own research hireling in the extraordinary form of Lisbeth Salander, a computer whizz with zero social skills but an incandescent sense of purpose. As played by Rooney Mara, she's a slight, whey-faced child-woman with piercings, tattoos and a spiked black haircut of terrifying unattractiveness. Think of a cross between Marilyn Manson and Maria Falconetti's martyr saint in Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, and you're almost there. Lisbeth is a ward of the Swedish state and thus vulnerable to a guardian who inflicts sexual humiliation on her, and later a gruesome rape, in return for the allowance that's her due. He will be made to regret his crimes in a revenge that suggests her own brutalised education in porno-violence.

Larsson fans probably won't mind, but this latest Dragon Tattoo fails to justify itself so quickly after the Swedish version. The photography is crisper, the grooming is slicker, the production values are ritzier – and it has Daniel Craig, lightly Scando-accenting his English in the first scenes before dropping the pretence. Fincher, working from a script by Steve Zaillian, ticks off all the plot points and makes good use of some lonely snowbound locations.

Yet it feels like a real footslog, and the running time suffers from serious bloat: Craig moodily scrutinising his board of notes and photographs or Mara swapping glares with an archive librarian leave no doubt as to their diligent clue-hunting, but as a mystery it's strictly uninvolving. Even at the ghoulish climax, when a character is trussed up in a sicko torture-basement, the mood is punctured by the villain's choice of soundtrack – Enya, for crying out loud (or was that part of the torture?). Either way, this is solemn, plodding stuff that promises little for its second and third instalments.

I had a much better time, surprisingly, at Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the fourth outing for Ethan Hunt and his brand of improbable derring-do. Tom Cruise, lynchpin and producer of the series, has enlisted Brad Bird as director on the strength of his Pixar/ Disney digi-mation wonder The Incredibles. It certainly pays off in the quality of the stunts, though in terms of characterisation it falls somewhat short of the latter's Mr Incredible, Elastigirl and Edna Mode. No matter, this is high-octane entertainment, and a chance for Cruise to show himself as a team-player instead of a preening one-man band (see, don't, Knight and Day etc).

It falls into three distinct phases, the first in Moscow where Hunt (Cruise) is sprung from prison courtesy of his techie sidekick (Simon Pegg) only to land in diplomatic doo-doo after the Kremlin is bombed. It's actually the work of nihilist nutter Kurt Hendricks (Michael Myqvist) who wants to destroy the world – don't they all? – and is this close to getting his hands on Russia's nuclear launch codes.

But Hunt's Impossible Mission Force, which includes Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner, cop the blame for the blast and are hung out to dry by the US government. Can the rogue crew, stripped of back-up, foil Hendricks's plan?

The cool thing about this lot is that they don't need the government or anything else – they've got back-up coming out of their ears. Take that invisibility-shield gadget, for instance, or those computerised contact lenses, or the climbing gloves that stick like flypaper to hard surfaces. These last prove useful during the film's thrilling middle section in Dubai, when Hunt has to climb the sheer face of a vertiginous glass-walled hotel (it's the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world). This sequence, shot with Imax cameras, lends a vaulting sense of space that might just cause your stomach to lurch. Hats off to Cruise, currently the shortest leading man in the world, who did his own stunts. Back on terra firma, the subsequent chase through the city, now immersed in a sandstorm, rounds off the most satisfying passage in any M:I movie.

It's riven with absurdities, of course, both large and small: the leather blouson that Hunt wears for a disguise is nicked from a washing-line. What's a leather jacket doing on a washing-line? But Brad Bird whips it along with such verve, and at such a pace, that – daft as it is – the thing works.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment