Thursday, December 22, 2011


Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Steven Zaillian
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, and Robin Wright.
Synopsis: A journalist and his savvy research assistant are hired to solve a 40 year old mystery of a missing girl of a wealthy family.

Jonesy: After millions of books sold and the Swedish adaptation of the property, we finally have Fincher's take on the GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. The books took the world by storm two years ago. I even got sucked into the craze and read the book. However, I didn't get the craze. I thought the book was ill-paced and long winded, and the main redeeming value was the Lisbeth character and the Vanger family who were full of secrets. I gave the Swedish film a chance; I still didn't care for it. Now, with the American adaptation, I hoped that the issues the book had would be fixed, but unfortunately, the movie still falls short.

The plot is fairly straight forward. An investigative journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Craig), is on leave from his magazine after being convicted of libel. He's hired by Henrik Vagner (Plummer) to write a "memoir" but in reality, Blomkvist is asked to investigate the 40 year old murder of Vagner's niece, Harriet. The Vagner family is rich, powerful, and of course, despicable and full of secrets. There are Nazis, drunks, and anti-Semites. Before Blomkvist was hired, his background was investigated by Lisbeth Salander (Mara). Salander is, well, odd. She's antisocial, dresses like she's a 90's goth child, and almost has Aspergers-type tendencies. Blomkvist eventually hires Salander as his research assistant, and the two begin a very unique working relationship.

Even though the plot has all the essential parts of a good mystery, the problem lies with the tension, as in, there wasn't any. There's no timeline for the mystery to be solved, so any tension that could have been built is gone. However, there are many sequences when pieces of evidence are being described/sorted through, and Fincher makes this actually interesting and intelligible. This is not my favorite Fincher film, and in fact, it might be my least favorite, but it's still, on a technical level, a solid film.

One strength of the film was the decision to keep the more brutal parts of the book in the story. Before Blomkvist and Salander come together, we follow each separately in their own respective stories. There are some incidents that Salander goes through which are important for her characterization, since she is such a reclusive person. Rooney Mara is unrecognizable as Lisbeth. Of the three properties, this is the best portrayal of the character. She accomplished not only being badass but having those few moments of humanity when the camera focused on her eyes.

So after three attempts to get on board to this property, I'm finally throwing in the towel. The performance of Rooney Mara is worth a look, but even though Fincher made a very well shot and directed movie, the actual story is what keeps me from throwing my full support behind it. If you're curious and have never read the book, this is the best version of the property to see.

Javi: I'm not sure how messed up this is, but I immediately thought after seeing this movie that there is no way in hell anyone whoa was on a date is getting laid after seeing this movie. I think that speaks quite a bit to how unflinching the movie was when dealing with some of the more touchy subjects and themes that it deals with, such as abuse, rape, and the power that men seem to take advantage of. Regardless, the movie that Fincher created is probably the best version of the story. It is the prettiest, the best cast, and the best acted. The biggest flaws that come from the movie are the source material and Fincher's lack of freedom or experimentation with the source material, and that's what keeps it away from replicating the critical success of THE SOCIAL NETWORK from last year.

Until the end of this review, I will refrain from really comparing the movie too much to other forms of the story. Each version needs to stand on its own. Let's start off with what works: Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. When I heard who they cast for the roles of Mikael Blompkvist and Lisbeth Salander, I really just could not picture it properly. Instead, you see Craig playing a broken man that's ever-so-slightly shows off parts of his personality when some of the more disturbing events of the movie occur.

Rooney Mara was just amazing. The transformation Mara had to go through seemed to be one of those Daniel Day-Lewis type of character immersions; I bet I can just picture her still staying in character before and after takes. Her hard exterior is obviously a huge part of the character what with her years of abuse and mistreatment by "society" and the people in her life, but where Mara shines as well as Craig is the moments where you see hints of emotion and vulnerability.

And much like I had explained before, the way that this movie was shot is amazing. Very similar to THE SOCIAL NETWORK, the mundane places and settings end up feeling more cold and moody depending on the setting. I could feel myself reaching for a jacket in many parts of the movie, which I thought was a testament to the great cinematography.  That being said, where the movie lost me is the structure. There is a point and time where things feel like the story should have ended, but then there is a section of the movie that almost feels like s super long prologue, and it really killed the momentum of the movie. This is the part of the movie where I wish Fincher had not just adapted it, but actually improved on it. The story was there, and it was interesting and solid enough to warrant the hype. The way that it has always been presented, however, was completely distracting.

The violence and the nudity was slightly surprising to me because in the context of this being prude America, we usually can't handle anything sex related but reveres violence. There was sexual violence that made me uncomfortable, but you know what's even worse than that? The fact that the characters affected by these actions felt complacent at all afterwards. There was some dark stuff in this movie which I thought was interesting, but it needed some ingenuity to make the mystery and the themes be more interesting. And referring to the soundtrack, it is probably right up there with Craig and Mara as highlights of the movie for me; it works very well in the context of the movie and never overpowers it.

By all means, go see this movie, if you are at all excited about this. If you either read the books, or watched the Swedish movie, or have gone to Hot Topic a lot and miss the point of Lisbeth, then you know what story you're getting into. Finally, on a random note, am I the only one that thinks the opening sequence is a little sexy? Anyone? Hello?

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