The best part of a David Fincher movie is invariably the way it sounds. In fact, in some cases, like in Fight Club, it’s the only good thing. 2010’s The Social Network used sound beautifully, realistically, but still certainly stylistically. In 2011 Fincher applies those things to the thriller. How important is sound to the success of a movie, you might ask? Very. Sound can make you aware of things or unaware of things, and if you are going to take 2 hours and 40 minutes to tell your story, as Fincher does with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and much of that story is exposition about family history and relationships, sound can save your movie from feeling slow. And that’s how it’s used here and masterfully used.
From the start we are introduced to a sound world that’s quite unusual in a movie. We’re outside and a person we recognize as movie star (Daniel Craig) opens his mouth to speak. We anticipate what he’s going to say, only it’s difficult to hear him, the sound of the street drowns him out. There’s so much secondary noise in Dragon Tattoo that as the movie goes along we become much more attuned to what people are saying and to what’s going on around them. Another scene, in the middle of the film, a tense one inside an office in which horrible things are happening. Many times this scene would be played in silence or with a dramatic score (the score, by Trevor Reznor, is fantastic and wonderfully integrated into sound design, sometimes being indistinguishable from the foley and natural sounds) in this movie we hear the sounds of the man buffering the floor outside the office which we were introduced to in a earlier shot. The fact that we know such an awful thing is taking place not far from such a nonchalant activity is disquieting.
In The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo we are constantly aware of our surroundings, the wind outside a house, the creaking of footsteps, elevators going up and down in a building. When a suspenseful moment late in the film comes along, it’s doubly so because the sound is only then taken away and we’ve been trained for 2 hours to expect it. The sound design is immaculate, Hitchcockian in it’s manipulative prowess. The story is quite good too and if the root of a good movie is in it’s script Fincher should thank his lucky stars that in his last three efforts he’s worked with Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and now Steve Zaillian, that’s a murderers row right there.