Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

Hello and welcome, Internet!

**Minor spoilers abound**

I just had the pleasure of seeing David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo twice in a row.  Yes, twice in a row.  There aren't a ton of films that I would be willing to do that for.  For some background, I've seen the original Swedish film twice and its first sequel once, but have never read any of the books.  During my first viewing it was immensely difficult for me to separate myself from the original.  I kept trying to compare plot beats and dialogue.  Its not that I wasn't able to enjoy the film; its quite the contrary.  However, I feel that my second viewing opened my eyes further, not only allowing me to pick up on things that I missed the first time around, but it also allowed me to distance myself from what I remembered and appreciate what Fincher brought to the table.  And he brought a lot.

One thought that was on probably everyone's mind was how can Rooney Mara live up to, or even top Noomi Rapace's portrayal of the tormented and intriguing Lisbeth Salander?  Mara not only lived up to any expectations I had, but also blew them out of the water.  Mara plays a different kind of Lisbeth.  Both start out distant and withdrawn, warped by extreme trauma at the hands of their new guardian.  After their respective introductions to journalist Mikael Blomkvist (this time around played wonderfully by Daniel Craig) is where the two portrayals begin to diverge.  Rapace remains distant and withdrawn during the course of their investigation, making love to Blomkvist seemingly to satisfy some carnal urge mixed with a touch of trust.  Mara's Lisbeth's walls begin to slowly crumble during the investigation, falling down almost completely during the extended post-resolution epilogue.  We see a few scenes of her interacting with Blomkvist in intimate and affectionate ways that the original film didn't even go near.

The rest of the cast is absolutely terrific.  Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist with a strong sincerity...I was able to connect with his character and sympathize with him.  Stellan Skarsgard is fantastic, as is Christopher Plummer.  The overall dynamic created by the Vanger family is palpable and real.

Dragon Tattoo, at it heart, is a crime thriller.  Except in this film the crime occurred over forty years ago.  Again, it was highly difficult to separate myself from what I already knew, but Fincher and writer Steven Zaillian craft a story that stands apart from the original.  Key plot points are shifted around in the overall timeline of the film, with certain elements streamlined, while others are expanded upon.  Entirely new scenes are added with some being removed altogether.  Without getting too spoilery, several elements of the case itself were altered, including the main reason Henrik Vanger hired Blomkvist in the first place.  A very large portion of the epilogue has been changed, namely revolving around Lisbeth and Blomkvist's interactions and relationship.  The ending they chose is a smart one; it will allow us to come back to our characters in a convenient manner for the sequel(s).

A David Fincher film has certain qualities that distinguish itself from all others.  Dragon Tattoo is no exception.  The cinematography is immaculate.  The change in lighting and color palette when switching from the 1960s to the present is an inspired choice.  With flashbacks it can be easy to get lost in the timeline (this year's J. Edgar fell victim to that), but with the juxtaposition between the grey/drab modern color set and the bright/vivid 1960s scheme one can easily identify what period they're in.  This film has myriad scenes that left a lasting impression upon me and are highly memorable.  Fincher does not shy away from any of the more uncomfortable scenes presented in the original.  Rather, he embraces them and uses them to effectively motivate and shape Lisbeth, allowing her to regain her power over herself directly and indirectly.  Directly via her confrontation with her new guardian, Bjurman and indirectly by participating and helping to solve Bomkvist's investigation.  We often hear about her troubled past but these few scenes allow us to get but a small glimpse into what Lisbeth has had to endure almost her entire life...and how it has shaped her.

To say that I loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be an understatement.  It is one of those rare remakes that takes the source material and presents it in such a manner that its predecessor can be all but forgotten in the process.  I consider both films fantastic in their own right.  Fincher's version delves a bit deeper into certain back-stories and offers up connective fiber that the original lacked.  This film is not for the sensitive or squeamish.  Very violent and brutal acts are captured onscreen with a visceral quality.  Some films include graphic sexual content for seeming shock factor (Antichrist is one that jumps to mind immediately), but Dragon Tattoo melds it into the plot and allows us to get a better grasp on one of the main characters.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a must-see and a damn good thriller.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a supremely entertaining and well-executed film.

The Bearded Bullet is off to debate whether or not he should watch The Girl Who Played with Fire again..

No comments:

Post a Comment