The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Brutally Brilliant
David Fincher ranks high on the list of Hollywood’s greatest minds. His attention to detail equals that of Stanley Kubrick, and his sharp vision is unlike anyone else working. He doesn’t appeal to mainstream audiences, so much of his genius goes underappreciated. What makes him more interesting isn’t just that he has a unique vision but also that he takes risks…and these aren’t risks that other directors would take. The ending in Seven? Almost didn’t happen because the producers didn’t like it. A movie about Facebook? On paper, it seemed ridiculous. Yet, Fincher always knows exactly how to make it work. Case in point: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Here’s an unusual situation: an American adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestseller two years after the Swedes filmed their version which already reached critical acclaim. It’s no surprise that fans of the original dismissed this version, but that may not be a bright move. Whether or not we needed an American version of this movie so soon is irrelevant because this movie proves itself worthy. This material is perfect for the director as the initial result is a beautiful, powerful, briskly-moving and impressive movie from the master himself. The movie boasts profound scenery, editing and even acting with a great performance from Rooney Mara and a surprisingly good performance from Daniel Craig.
Recovering from a libel case, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) is hired by a Swedish billionaire named Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate a mystery within the Vanger family. Also helping him is the talented but antisocial hacker Lisbeth Salander (Mara) who has a rugged past of her own. During the investigation, they discover a harsh secret in the family.
Daniel Craig’s performance as Mikael Blomkvist doesn’t have much facial features but doesn’t lack intensity. Blomkvist keeps things close to the chest, which makes Craig perfect for the role. He makes his presence known in every scene, making Blomkvist more noticeable, never fading from the scenery. While Craig’s performance is noteworthy as the wronged journalist, it’s Mara’s performance as the titular heroine that stands out as the best. Many may argue that Noomi Rapace played Lisbeth better, but Mara remains closest to the source material. She too conveys little emotion which makes sense because she’s erematic. She hates the people around her and fears being vulnerable; and once you see the people with whom she surrounds herself, how can you blame her? All of her acting, like Craig’s, comes from her eyes and voice. She maintains a subtle intensity in her acting while never breaking her Swedish accent. The entire ensemble supporting these two include veterans and non-veterans with few performances requiring criticism. Christopher Plummer as Henrik, Stellan Skarsgaard as Martin, Joely Richardson as Anita, all these performances stand out strong. Those who didn’t didn’t have enough screen time to develop.
Like his previous movies The Social Network and Zodiac, Fincher incorporates a strong ensemble. He knows how to break actors from their comfort zone and make them give outstanding performances, but it’s his narrative style that’s the focus of this movie. It uses the investigative theme of Zodiac with the gruesomeness of Seven and the visual beauty of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In fact, this film stands out as his most Impressionist. The scenery and the music convey the moods that the characters portray. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the score, but unlike their last endeavor which stood out enough to win them the Academy Award, this score blends into the movie to give its chill in the throat. It’s noticeable, but it feels more natural with everything around it.
The script and story remains faithful to the late Stieg Larsson’s book, so a number of the book’s harsh events come to life here. Many people may not handle the rape scenes because those scenes can be pretty cruel. The story itself doesn’t just move at an amazing pace, it breathes. The two hours go by so quickly that it’s hard to follow at times, but it doesn’t get boring except in the last thirty minutes. Not that the part at the end didn’t add anything to the story, but the loose ends took too long to tie up. Even then, it gave the movie enough time to settle down from its motion.
If people should learn anything about the guy who directed Fight Club is that the aforementioned movie was no fluke. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a powerful spectacle, packing a punch with immense speed and power that you won’t know what hit you. The performances, namely Craig’s and Mara’s, get enough praise from other critics but truly deserve recognition from the masses. The scenery and score paint a portrait as haunting as it is beautiful. The story grips you tight and doesn’t let go, leaving you just as hungry for the answers as the characters. The original has its fans, but those fans shouldn’t disregard this adaptation as it not only earns a reputation as a worthy version of the book but as one of the best films released this year.
Final Rating: 8.5 (Do Go)