Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Movie Review

I saw the poster to your left hanging kind of hidden off to the side in the lobby of the movie theater I normally frequent.  I was kind of surpirsed to see it, because there's not much separating you from full on nudity.  Then I did a search for the poster and found that this version appears to be the censored version of it. I'm no prude, but when I saw it, even I kind of had to go, "Woah!"

Anyway, I've long been looking forward to David Fincher's adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I've seen the Swedish trilogy, but I haven't read any of Stieg Larsson's novels, so that's where my perspective is coming from.  While I liked the Swedish adaptations (the first and third, in particular), I always feel like I miss a little bit when watching a foreign film.  I suspected that I might get more out of an English version and was excited when I saw that David Fincher was directing this adaptation with Daniel Craig starring.

As some of you have probably already seen the earlier version or read the books, I'm not going to go into the plot too much.  Besides, there is so much going on in the story, that if I recapped the entire plot, I'd be here all day.

The movie opens with a great opening credit sequence featuring a remake of Led Zeppelin's The Immigrant Song, as performed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who also worked with Fincher on The Social Network.  And just so there's no confusion of Trent Reznor's involvement in the movie, one of the characters is wearing a "NIN" shirt at one point.  I thought it was kind of funny, but shameless at the same time.

The basic story follows Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) as a disgraced writer that has just lost a high profile libel suit.  You see that a security company recently had one of their investigators, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), do a background check on Blomkvist at the request of a wealthy business man.  The business man, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), wants Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance of his great-niece, who he believes was murdered over 40 years ago.  Vanger also believes someone in the family is responsible for the murder.  You find that Vanger's family is pretty messed up and it would seem that almost everyone is a potential suspect at first.

As Blomkvist is investigating the murder, you also follow Lisbeth Salander's character in parallel until eventually Blomkvist needs her assistance to further the investigation.  I really can't talk about her story without spoiling some of the better moments of the movie though.  All I'll say is that there is some crazy stuff that happens in her story and this adaptation didn't disappoint me there.

Please note that both adaptations are long.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're someone that has a hard time sitting through longer movies (over two and a half hours), then this might be a tough watch in the theater and better suited for a rental.  There are also probably a few points where you think the movie is nearly over, only to have it continue wrapping up other plot threads.  While I won't argue that the movie is a little too long, I'm not sure how they could have told it in two hours without cutting out huge and important sections of the story.  I still though it was well paced though.  It probably helps that I was already familiar with the story, but I never felt bored or like it was running long or padding it's run time.

There's nothing wrong with any of the performances here.  Daniel Craig is good, Stellan Skarsgård is good, but it's really all about Mara's performance as Lisbeth Salander.

Rooney Mara ended up being an inspired choice to play Lisbeth.  She's only been in a handful of smaller roles, most notably The Social Network, so I was little surprised when I heard she was going to play Lisbeth.  At the same time, I liked that fact that she was a relative unknown.  I think it would be hard to see a higher profile actress play Lisbeth. Also, with Fincher directing, it didn't seem like much of a stretch since they had worked together before.  Mara is unrecognizable as Lisbeth and gives and amazing performance.  I felt like she really threw herself into the character.  I had no idea she was capable of such a performance and I think it's one of the best of the year.  I have to say that I liked Mara better than Noomi Rapace's Lisbeth.

Maybe something was lost in the translation of the Swedish adaptation, but I enjoyed this version so much more.  I found it to be even more brutal.  Look, they are both good movies.  There are differences in the story that you'll notice if you've seen both.  I don't really have any issue with that.  These are different adaptations of the novel, not remakes of one another.  There are things that the Swedish version did better and there are things that I think the English version did better.  They both stand up well on their own.

As I said earlier, I think Fincher was the right choice for this.  He's shown with movies like Se7en and Zodiac that he's ideally suited for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  The screenplay was written by Steven Zaillian, who also wrote Moneyball (as well as some other good movies), so he's really on a role.

Here was kind of a surprising thing, someone actually brought their kid to see this.  Really?  Look, I don't believe in sheltering children too much, but this is not something I'd show to a young kid.  I just thought that was kind of weird.  I guess if you had no clue what the movie was going to be about, then maybe the parent just made an uniformed movie choice.  It's like when my co-worker once told me that they took their young son to see Boogie Nights, not knowing what it was about.  Yeah, they had to leave after a few minutes.

The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo is a good film that's expertly directed by David Fincher and features a fantastic, break-out performance from Rooney Mara.  It's length and brutality might be too much for some viewers, but I think it's worth it.

I give this 4 Death Stars (out of 5).

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't normally say this, but the recent movie adaptation of this book (with Daniel Craig) was great, and if you just want to know how the story goes, I'd recommend it. It doesn't have any pacing issues and it was really very faithful as adaptations go.