THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
****1/2 (out of 5)
December 20, 2011
Daniel Craig as MIKAEL BLOMKVIST
Rooney Mara as LISBETH SALANDER
Christopher Plummer as HENRIK VANGER
Stellan Skarsgård as MARTIN VANGER
Robin Wright as ERIKA BERGER
Joely Richardson as ANITA VANGER
Directed by: David Fincher
BY KEVIN CARR
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While many critics out there think David Fincher is the greatest modern director to every walk the planet, I take a more moderate approach. The guy has some great films, like “Se7en” and “Zodiac,” which are truly brilliant on every level. However, the guy has also had some huge missteps in quality and structure, including the overrated “The Social Network” and the plodding bore that is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”
For me, Fincher is a man full of promise and potential, and only occasionally does he swerve into a fantastic film. Well, it happened again, as “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is an excellent piece of work.
Based on the international best seller, and technically a remake of the original Swedish film, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a grim but beautiful look into the lives of the corrupted. Magazine writer Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has been embroiled in a libel controversy, which allows wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to hire him as a private investigator. Vanger asks Blomkvist to look into the case of his niece, who was murdered on the family’s island a half a century ago.
To help Blomkvist in solving the mystery, another investigator is brought in, the troubled and edgy Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) who also investigated Blomkvist in the past. Together, Salander and Blomkvist forge an unlikely bond and uncover an series of killings dating back to the 1950s.
I’ve never read the original Stieg Larsson novel, but I did see the 2009 Swedish film (and that counts for something, doesn’t it?). So, I can’t say whether Fincher’s adaptation does the original book justice. However, he delivers a film that is just as powerful and just as well made as its Swedish counterpart.
There’s a lot happening in the story, and Fincher manages to juggle these intersecting plot lines well. Blomkvist is a cad, but he’s presented as a decent guy with a good heart. But it’s the portrayal of Lisbeth Salander (which concerned most fans because Noomi Rapace did such a fantastic job in the Swedish films) that is most impressive.
Even though she’s not the centerpiece of the film, Mara commands all of her scenes, even when she is unfortunately victimized. The movie is an intense, raw trip through some awful elements, but it is impossible to see the character of Lisbeth as anything but the hero.
In some ways, the murder investigation is more of a MacGuffin than the focus of the story. Instead, it’s a look at Lisbeth’s journey, which is wrought with despair and only briefly spotted with anything that remotely resembles happiness.
The composition of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” goes beyond the acting. The locations and cinematography make every shot beautiful even when the most awful things are happening on screen. The film captures both the beauty and the desolation of the world that Blomkvist and Salander inhabit. Add Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s slow build of a soundtrack into the mix and you have a film that is both minimal and in-your-face.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is not for the easily offended or even the typical mainstream audience. There’s a lot of ugliness in the film, and it doesn’t quite follow a standard mainstream plot. Even as the film winds to a close, with the mystery solved, it takes its time to tie up character arcs. In this sense, it makes for a more heartbreaking film than the original Swedish version.
It’s a rough haul at times, but expertly executed and entirely worthy of the anticipation leading up to its release.