Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cold Case

In just about two minutes, David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo announces its arrival with an opening credits sequence that's reminiscent of Fincher's Fight Club, except much, much darker (and a bit kinkier too). As the sounds of Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Karen O's take on Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" play, it's clear you're in for a distinctly ominous movie. And sure enough, with its story of murder, rape, violence against women, graphic scenes of torture, a plot involving Nazis, and a lead heroine who is so anti-social and prone to revenge that she's a ward of the state, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is no one's idea of a feel-good movie. And yet, it's a pretty damned good one.

If you're one of the millions of people who've read Stieg Larsson's novel or seen the original screen adaptation, then you know the story. I hadn't done either of those things, so it was all new to me. Here's the gist: Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a disgraced journalist in Stockholm, is hired by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the head of a rich family, to investigate what happened to his granddaughter 40 years earlier. Needing help, Mikael eventually hires a young female hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who, unbeknownst to him, conducted a background check on Mikael before he was hired for the job, and has a thing for getting back at those who've crossed her.

It's a cool story, featuring some interesting characters, a terrific screenplay by Steven Zaillian (his second great adaptation this year, the other being Moneyball), another strong score by Reznor and Ross, and expert direction by Fincher, who gives the whole thing a sense of menace that preys on the audience's worst instincts. Yes, the movie is graphic at parts, but you won't be able to look away for a second. For that, credit Fincher, but also give kudos to Craig, Plummer, and, as another member of the Vanger family, Stellan Skarsgard, all of whom give very good — and in the case of Skarsgard, creepy — performances.

And then there's Mara (last seen as Mark Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend in The Social Network), who makes a real bad ass, kick ass heroine. She's a walking contradiction — her look is a cry for attention, but her demeanor says "Stay away" — and Mara just disappears into this role, investing all of herself in it. She's awesome.

And yet, as great and gripping as it is, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is held back by its own source material. [SPOILER ALERT] The film seems to have three different endings, making it feel about 20 minutes too long, but even worse, the relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth goes to a place I just didn't buy. I get that the two would become allies and friends, and that she might develop a strong loyalty to him, but the fact that they would start sleeping together is unbelievable to me. And that took me out of the story a bit. [END SPOILERS]

For most other movies, those problems would derail my enjoyment. But most other movies aren't as well made as this one. And when the lights went up, all I wanted to do was see more. The second part of the series, The Girl Who Played with Fire, can't come out soon enough. I'm giving this film a B+.



Blogger Paula said...

Excellent review. Excellent movie.

The book goes into much more detail and makes sense of some of the things there just wasn't time to go into in the movie, most specifically the sexual relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth.

He is not the monogamous type. Not only does he sleep with Erika (who is married - and whose husband knows about the relationship), but he also sleeps with Cecilia Vanger (I think before Lisbeth gets to the island), which is left out of the movie. And Lisbeth falls for him because he is one of only a few men (including her previous guardian) who has treated her like she is "normal" without taking advantage of her, respecting her talents, and appreciating her. Even making her a sandwich or asking her opinion on something.

Their sexual relationship is definitely harder to believe in the Swedish version, because the actor playing Mikael is no Daniel Craig.

I definitely think that anyone who likes the movie should read the books to fill in some of the gaps.

December 27, 2011 9:57 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Thanks for the comment! Glad you liked the review (and the movie). Would love to read the book, but unfortunately, I know I never will.

December 27, 2011 6:54 PM  

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