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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.