Friday, January 20, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

By s. Friday, January 20, 2012 , , , , , , ,
94/100 (158 min, 2011)
Plot: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.
Director: David Fincher
Writers: Steven Zaillian (screenplay), Stieg Larsson (novel)
Stars: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer

Men who hate women. Women who punish men.

David Fincher's take on Stieg Larsson's novel - which is and it must be stressed again not a remake of the Swedish film - is superior to the first cinematic version of the story  in every way. I do not know if all those purists saying this movie was unnecessary are blind, but there is not one thing in Fincher's film that wouldn't be better than in Noomi Rapace's version. It is so good in fact, that I will wait to know the rest of the story until new movies get made and just ignore straight to TV efforts from Old Continent. Because the heart of this stories is Lisbeth Salander. And in Noomi Rapace's interpretation she lacks just that - a heart.

The intricate story is flawlessly told - this is Fincher's strength - he knows how to orchestrate all the elements in his movies - while the stories he tells are always complex, they are never too hard to follow. Because of the editing and clever timing there is so much happening in the film - but Fincher knows when to slow down to built appropriate tension. When I was watching the Swedish film I thought how great the story was - too bad the movie is so average. Now we finally have a movie worthy of that story.
The biggest improvement are the characters - Blomqvist who was completely bland in the first movie here is brought to life so vividly it even creates a match for Lisbeth - he is played with a lot of charm by Daniel Craig, terrific actor who plays a little bit with his James Bond image here - Mikeal does many things that are far from 007 - he trips, he gets shot running around the woods, he even sneaks in suspicious man's house, unarmed walking around there like a moron in a fog. Mikeal is the guy who has his weaknesses - he cheated on his wife, he drinks way too much - but he is ultimately a nice guy, caring and wanting to do the right thing. Throughout the story, in which he is hired to find the murderer of the young girl by her wealthy uncle he doesn't want to proceed because of the money involved - he wants to proceed because he wants the killer to get caught.

The story's most recognizable face and character is Lisbeth Salander who has now grown to become some sort of feminist avenging angel in pop culture. But unlike Rapace's Salander - who was walking around completely pissed off all the time, using men as punching bags and whose relationship with Mikeal was basically reduced to one sex scene in which she appeared to crave the feeling of control and just that, Mara's Salander is an actual person. This performance is a revolution - that little girl, tiny, short, skinny, pale, with soft voice and big eyes hides so much within her it's striking. Mara's Lisbeth can be both ferociously angry and dangerous, antisocial and rude and at the other times incredibly caring, humane and thoughtful - even vulnerable and innocent at times. The ability the actress has to channel both fury and purity is amazing - I haven't seen performance so beautifully layered in a very long time.
Rapace's performance was very good, but the script didn't give her much chance to show something more to Lisbeth than just angry "stay away" look. Mara is aided by beautifully written screenplay which helps her create Lisbeth who is flesh and bones. And beating heart inside. The writers did the right thing expending the story we know from Swedish movie a little more and adding a lot from the novel - thanks to the larger back story Lisbeth is given in the beginning and touching sequences in the end Mara gets to depict a whole variety of emotions.

Having seen Mara on Golden Globes I have to say I wish she just kept her look from the movie - she looks infinitely better here, maybe it's the eyebrows, I'm not sure - but she looks completely different than she does in real life. She actually got all of those piercings and looking at herself in the mirror must have been shocking. I read few articles about her close relationship with Fincher during developing the character - it is quite disturbing, given how she even asked him permission to eat, but whatever twisted thing they got going certainly worked well in translation from Mara to Lisbeth on screen.
In Swedish film it seems that assumption was made - bad things happened to Salander so she is unable to smile and feel. Fincher knows better - just because she has been through hell and back doesn't change her personality and her basic traits. She is capable of being amusing, sweet and kind. I particularly loved the scene where instead protecting just herself from her perverted caretaker like we saw in first version, she also tells him she will go after him if he hurts any other girls. And then there is ending - incredibly touching, showing once and for all that Lisbeth can feel, feel strongly and she is a person like you and me - not some kind of supergirl fighting crime.

Lisbeth is such an inspiring character because she has many things we all want - she has strength, bravery, she is brilliant and she has photographic memory. Further more - and that's the thing that creates paradox here - she does what she wants, she doesn't hide her emotions, she puts them right in the open unlike Mikeal who just holds everything in. And yet it's Lisbeth who is considered to be insane.
The attraction between the two is instant - Mikeal has never met someone like Lisbeth and she never met a man who was sweet, charming and calm. When they first meet she immediately grabs a teaser, being sure he will want to harm her. That didn't even cross his mind - he is just there to talk. When he tells her he needs her help in catching the killer of women, she is already on board.

Lisbeth has suffered from the hands of men through all her life. The movie covers only a small portion of it, when we are watching sequences with her and her new sadistic guardian, who forces her to perform sexual acts in order to get money from her own accounts. That situation leads to horrific rape, which is probably - along with the revenge scene - the most infamous scene from both movies. The scene with Lisbeth and caretaker are easily the most disturbing in the movie - not only because of the content and Mara's painfully realistic acting, but because of distinctive Fincher's style - raw, realistic and horrifyingly disturbing.
Fincher's style - something we perhaps seen the best in "Zodiac" so far is clearly seen here - he doesn't make things pretty, he doesn't shy away from certain subject matters. In America nowadays you can show bodies torn to pieces, but God forbid you show woman's vagina or Michael Fassbender's penis - you are doomed. Fincher doesn't care - the characters drink, smoke, swear, have sex naked (which believe me, doesn't happen that often on the screen anymore). The actresses don't look glamorous - Joely Richardson and Robin Wright look plain, you can clearly see wrinkles on their faces and the time that passed since they both were in their twenties. Fincher doesn't care about making things appealing - why would he, when we are dealing with a story concerning killings, torture and rape.

Mara and Craig easily overshadow everyone else although the cast includes the likes of Christopher Plummer, Stellan Sarsgard, Goran Visnjic, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson and Embeth Davidz - who I'm not sure. didn't even have a single line. The story demands the variety of people involved, because of how big the family in the story is and everyone is doing great job. Fincher gives us red herrings but being so familiar with usual tricks he actually allows himself a bit of clever foreshadowing and hinting at who the killer is - when you are watching the film for the first time you won't notice it, but the second time around you will amazed you haven't caught it the first time.
The movie is set in cold tone and is greatly aided by score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. No wonder they won so many awards for their work on last Fincher's film "The Social Network". It's almost a new kind of a movie score - the kind that adds so much to the picture, while being in large percentage a mixture of various sounds and not typical film music. In "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" the score adds actual depth to the pictures we are seeing - it feels like icy wind that hits your face during winter. The bit of foreshadowing I mentioned before works so well because of the score - if it was just a regular film music that scene would never work so effectively. The movie also features the most ingenious use of Enya's song in any film to date.

I have to mention exquisite opening title sequence - Fincher himself says the sequence of the movie is a "sort of primordial sort of tar and ooze of the subconscious... sort of her nightmare.". When the surreal and disturbingly erotic and violent images move through the screen terrific "Immigrant Song" sung by Karen O plays in the background. In this time, both the screen and the speakers are being crashed by the force of anger and passion.
Although dealing with unpleasant subject matter Fincher snuck in a lot of humour to the film - the code words Mikeal uses in the car in London, the cat that runs around his cottage, various instances when Lisbeth commends the environment but completely ignoring other people's objections. But the most impressive thing is how everything comes together - first we see Mikeal's story which is then inter cut with Lisbeth's tale. Then when they meet they are trying to solve the mystery together. The scene when Lisbeth is looking at the pictures in the warehouse as Mikeal is talking to the murderer is fantastic.

I'm really hoping remaining two novels will be made into movies. I heard Fincher has other plans, but Mara and Craig have singed contracts to appear in all three movies. If not Fincher then maybe Aronofsky? or Cronenberg? It has to be someone who as Fincher can show the story in such a raw, gritty way, but never forgetting about the characters in its core.


  1. Oh, Cronenberg for its sequel? Sign me up! That would be a great idea.

    1. Yeah, especially since Dangerous Method didn'nt do too well, I would think he would be looking for a good oportunity :)

  2. Great review! Even though I know this is an adaptation of the book, not a remake, I still really like Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist in the Swedish films. I've been saying this to everyone nearly (haha) but I'll have to wait until I see the film before I can picture Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in those roles.

  3. Cronenberg would be nice to see directing the film. I have not read or watched any of the film sin this series, but it seems I should hop to it. Terrific review. Very in depth.

  4. Loved your review, very elaborate! It is a great movie, but as I said, it didn't reach its maximum potential for me! Still, Mara is fantastic!

  5. It’s certainly worth seeing if you missed the original. If you saw it, however, there’s no way of unseeing it, and nothing in the new one to top it. Craig and Mara are great here though and Fincher brings so much more to this film like I was expecting too. Good review.

  6. Love your review - and agree with every single word!

    This was fantastic. I'm going to see it again this week since it has been downgraded to R16 and my mum and sister want to see it. Really looking forward to it! I downloaded the soundtrack the other day, and while it is a little long, it is simply amazing. It is like Sweden happening in my ears...or something like that.

    I also loved how Fincher just let it all out in this one, especially with everyone looking plain and everything looking so realistic. Rooney Mara is simply amazing in this film, too. It's such a shame she probably won't get an Oscar nomination (though, in my opinion, she deserves to win).

    And how great were the opening credits? I feel a bit weird for saying this but when I rewatch it in cinemas, that is what I'm most looking forward to. Just that 'Immigrant Song' (which is getting played often on my iPod) blaring through the sound system is so badass! I felt like standing up and clapping when I first saw it - but people would have thought I was a bit strange.

    Anyway, sorry for the long-ish comment, but there was just so much that I agreed about here! Nice work!

    1. Thanks so much! The opening scene was just incredible in the theatre, I thought the cinema will collapsed due to energy of it :)

  7. nicely written review! the film was much better than i thought it was going to be... esp. since i was a bit tired of the story (having read the book and seen the swedish film). fincher def. is a master of style.

  8. Great review, I've seen the original Swedish films, but I am curious to see what this version is like.

    1. Thank you! I thought the Swedish films were OK but this one was really terrific!