The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Movie Review #632

girl_with_the_dragon_tattoo_ver3
Studio: Columbia Pictures – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures – Scott Rudin – Yellow Bird Millennium US Rights AB – Film Rites – Ground Control
Distributor: Columbia Pictures, through Sony Pictures Releasing
Country: USA – Sweden – Norway
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by David Fincher. Produced by Scott Rudin, Ole Søndberg, Søren Stærmose, and Ceán Chaffin. Screenplay by “Steven Zaillian”. Based on the novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson.

Rated R by the MPAA, for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language. Runs 2 hours, 38 minutes. Premiered in London on December 12, 2011 and in New York City, New York on December 14, 2011. Wide release in the USA on December 20, 2011, and in Sweden and Norway on December 21, 2011.

Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, and Joely Richardson. Also starring Geraldine James, Ulf Friberg, Goran Visnjic, Donald Sumpter, Embeth Davidtz, Joel Kinnaman, Elodie Yung, Tony Way, Alan Dale, Julian Sands, David Dencik, Fredrik Dolk, Per Myrberg, Gustaf Hammarsten, Leo Bill, and Josefin Asplund.

Cinemaniac Reviews three and a half stars

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist for Sweden’s Millennium magazine, and taking a gander at a case far more complicated than it appears.  Henrik Vanger, the patriarch of a wealthy family, has hired Blomkvist to find his niece, Harriet Vanger.  No one on the island, owned by the family, has seen Harriet for four decades, after the night she unexpectedly disappeared.  The time since has been disturbing for Henrik.  Was she murdered?  If so, who killed her?  If not, where is she, and what motivated her to stay in hiding for so long?  Again, it’s not as simple as it sounds.  No one on the island knows much more than that she disappeared.

That’s when Mikael comes to the titular character: Lisbeth Salander, whose large dragon tattoo lies across her left shoulder in a way that seems to enhance it.  She’s a character with complexity whose description doesn’t just narrow into a few pages, let alone this review; for all intents and purposes, let’s call her a quick-minded, cyberpunk computer hacker with an attitude.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” digs back to one of David Fincher’s strong fascinations: journalism.  We saw it in “Zodiac” (2007), but there’s something in this English language adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s debut novel that seems to really grab the director.  “Dragon Tattoo” is tenser, more thrilling, and (ironically) of greater reality.  The movie deals artfully with criminal investigation.  It delves so deep into those crimes, that we don’t realize the legal offenses (i.e. computer hacking) that come along the way.

It’s likely covered up by our interest in the cast.  Daniel Craig is strong as Blomkvist, conveying the natural tones required by the novel.  Salander is ten times better.  Her character admirably (or anything but admirably) opposes Blomkvist, in her unpredictable nature.  Rooney Mara is perfect in this complex role.  She speaks in sharp, concise sentences, seldom gives eye contact.  While she does seem 24, she never misses a beat looking, acting, and living like a Gothic 18-year-old.  Watch her methods for retrieving a stolen computer bag at a train station.  She makes the scene far more memorable than anything we could hope for.

Going back behind the lens, David Fincher is a doctor in the art of title sequences.  My personal favorites have been “Fight Club” and “Panic Room”, but “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is thoroughly another sign of his genius.  Kudos for the complementary music: Karen O’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, with Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross.  It shows once again that Reznor and Ross (“The Social Network”) are David Fincher’s “go-to guys,” as far as music is concerned.  Fincher makes “Dragon Tattoo” into a grim and gruesome tale, and most of this comes from either the music or the well-placed cinematography (three-time collaborator Jeff Cronenworth).

I don’t want to note the American adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” as a creation superior to the book.  Several improbabilities, however, are saved and made believable in the cinematic translation of Stieg Larsson’s writing.  The best of this is that the film gives us exactly what we want: an even focus between Blomkvist and Salander.  (The novel felt centered on Blomkvist, despite Salander’s high intrigue.)  Steven Zaillian’s script inventively dissects the novel.  Admittedly, it does take at least an hour to tie up loose ends.  Mikael’s search for Harriet is shown as a parallel to Salander’s character development during this time.  It’s there to set up for later on, where the movie becomes terrifically captivating.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” doesn’t always offer the easiest scenes.  I’ll try not to spoil too much, but Larsson originally published the novel as Män som hatar kvinnor, or, “Men who Hate Women”.  It most certainly didn’t offer the easiest casting choice either.  How Rooney Mara so audaciously took on such a complex lead–her second ever, after the perfectly simple Nancy in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (2010)–is something I’ll never be able to understand.  Between her powerhouse acting, and Zaillian’s stellar adaptation, “Dragon Tattoo” flies by in over two and a half hours.  It’s worth every minute.

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  1. Fincher sure as hell does love his journalists! Good review.

  2. First, I love the new look! Second, I’m a huge fan of this story. Loved the book, loved the Swedish film and loved this American version as well. Both Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara are splendid as Lisbeth.

  3. David Fincher is one of my favorite directors. He’s always interesting. Looking forward to Gone Girl, a thriller based on the best selling novel by Gillian Flynn, starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, and Tyler Perry.




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