Friday, December 30, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Tonight I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig.

It would be impossible not to compare this film to its Swedish predecessor or to the book where the story originated, so I won't pretend I'm trying not to; that said, I'll do my best to focus less on the differences and more on the core quality of the film.

Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) is a Swedish journalist being brought down in the court of public opinion for a story he wrote that turned out to be less than factual. He was most likely set up by the subject of the story, but that is beside the point now that his and his magazine's reputations are ruined. To remove himself from the public eye, he takes a job with a wealthy family to investigate a murder that happened several decades ago.

Lisbeth Salander (Mara) is the damaged, disturbed, unconventional investigator brought in to act as Blomkvist's research assistant. Because of her past mental health issues, she is forced to report to a guardian who is responsible for dispensing her allowances. Unfortunately, her caring guardian becomes hospitalized and she is assigned to a sadistic, horrible guardian who demands sexual favors in return for her own money. She devises a way to prevent this from happening, but in the meantime is brutally raped by the man.

Christopher Plummer plays Henrik Vanger, the wealthy member of a troubled family with a nazi past, desperate to find his niece's killer. As usual, Plummer gives a superb, believable performance in the role, but unfortunately his screen time is too brief.

I think the same of Robin Wright, who makes a fantastic Erika Berger, Mikael's boss and married lover. She's pitch perfect in the scenes she appears in, but they are few and far between.

Overall, the story stays somewhat close to the novel, though a few ridiculous details make me groan with American shame (the McDonald's product placement is blatant; there is a somewhat predictable mention of Ikea). I also agree with other critics who have mentioned that Mara's version of Lisbeth is far too feminine.

Aside from making Lisbeth 'pretty' in certain intimate scenes, she also appears to register emotion with Mikael, which is something the true character never would have done. They aren't a couple, but here, they behave like one.

Daniel Craig is also too good looking and too physically fit to be playing the smoking, eating Mikael. And far to few cups of coffee were consumed to stay true to the native text.

However, Fincher does work his magic in many ways.

The lighting and the shadows and the mood of the film are always spot on. Whether Liseth is blazing down the street on her motorcycle or watching a night vision camera to see who is prowling about the property, the aura of the story is captured in a more spiritual way than that of the original film.

The more linear script by Steven Zaillian also manages to put the sequence of events in layman's terms for the intended American audience, which is probably a good thing for those who became too frustrated and abandoned the book, or are afraid of films with subtitles. The story deserves to be seen, even if digested in a more obvious way.

The violent scenes are no less horrific (especially a post-rape glimpse of Liseth in the shower); the chases no less tense.

All in all, a satisfying, if not yet as accurate retelling of a classic mystery that will certainly be shared for years to come.


1 comment:

JG said...

What did you think of the Swedish accents from each cast member? Overall, I thought they ranged from decent (Robin Wright) to spot-on. (Stellan Skarsgård)

Here's a question I would like to someone who grew up in Sweden to answer. Did Fincher get Swedish society right in this film? The reason I ask is because non-American directors have a way of accurate portraying American society in their films. (e.g., Josef von Sternberg's "The Docks of New York", several films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Bruce Beresford's "Driving Miss Daisy", Sam Mendes' "American Beauty", and David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence") Perhaps the detached perspective lends them a better view of the big picture.

Speaking of product placement, did you catch the reference to two Swedish film actors in the name of the store Sjöström Livs? (read: Victor Sjöström and Liv Ullmann)