Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Film Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I must admit to not being much of a fan of the original Swedish trilogy (and I haven't even read the bestselling novels they in turn were based upon!), and I am far from a proponent of Hollywood remaking every successful foreign film they can get their hungry little hands on (why can't American movie audiences just watch a damned subtitled film!?), but put a daring director like David Fincher behind the wheel and place a surprisingly powerful, relatively unknown actress like Rooney Mara as the titular tattooed lady, and you can certainly colour me impressed.

If I had any trepidation going in it would have been on the question of the brutality that was so inherent in the original series, and if a mainstream studio project (and Oscar hopeful to boot) would allow such unapologetic cruelty to be part of its make-up - even when that same said cruelty was integral to telling such a story.  My hopes for such a positive transition from European art house to playing in Peoria were taken pretty high when I first heard that Fincher would be taking the reigns, but they went through the proverbial roof when I finally saw the picture and realized, from the very onset of the succulent black and white opening titles that looked as if they creeped out of a oil-drenched Bosch nightmare, that no one put this baby in a corner.  

Without wavering, Fincher kept the film as brutal and as harrowing as it needed to be.  The director even said, when he was first attached to the film, that he would not soft-peddle the literary content, and that this would be a "Hard R" rated movie.  This may be a turn off for those on the squeamish side (the aforementioned brutality is certainly nothing to be trifled with), but to the fan of the books and/or the original trilogy who want the best adaptation money can buy, and to someone like me who believes in balls-to-the-wall filmmaking, it is the most necessary of evils.  But still, the brutality is only the surface of this intricate and rather convoluted film (sometimes the storyline can more than border on the ridiculous) - the real stuff comes with the performance of Ms. Mara as the socially maladjusted computer hacker genius heroine of the whole shebang.

Setting aside the more than capable performances of Daniel Craig as the inquisitive lead Mikael Blomkvist, Christopher Plummer as the head of the most fucked-up family in Sweden and Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd as an appropriately slimy wouldbe villain, this is Rooney Mara's film to either sink or swim with.  As tattooed cover girl Lisbeth Salander, Mara (her closest claim to fame being her brief appearence as Jesse Eisenberg's rightfully jaded ex-girlfriend in Fincher's The Social Network) is a steely-eyed force of unnatural nature that can wreak revenge on a repugnant rapist with one hand (clasped around a tattoo gun or a lead pipe) while downloading the most encrypted of code to unearth a sadistic killer of women with the other. 

Complete with a soundtrack from (Oscar Winners!!) Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and a roving, aggressive camera that has Fincher written all over its audacious brouhaha, Mara's bodacious performance - a more wily and humanistic version of Noomi Rapace's original Lisbeth - takes this film head and shoulders above the original (a rare thing indeed) and gives the film, even with any viewer of the original knowing exactly what is coming, a true sense of dread and danger.  I still say Hollywood should stop trying to remake every foreign film they can, but in this rare case it actually worked.  Imagine that.


Anonymous said...

It’s certainly worth seeing if you missed the original. If you saw it, however, there’s no way of unseeing it, and nothing in the new one to top it. Craig and Mara are great here though and Fincher brings so much more to this film like I was expecting too. Good review Kevyn.

Kevyn Knox said...

I liked the original alright (bored silly by the sequels) but this one just flew a lot better - even if you do know what is coming.

FlickChick said...

I totally agree. Maybe it's just my American mind, but this casting fit the way I envisioned the characters much more than the Swedish version. I think they got it just right here and Mara's Lisbeth is amazing.Sometimes, the 2nd time is the charm.

MP said...

I'm intriguied to see Fincher's adaptation. But the whole Hollywood remake thing pisses me a little. However, I'll end up watching this one for sure being a fan of the novels.

Kevyn Knox said...

As I say in my review - Hollywood does need to stop remaking every foreign film out there (read a fucking subtitle people!!) but this is one of the rare ones that get better via the American retread.

lpk said...

I liked the Swedish version, but this grabbed me right from the opening titles and blew me away. And FlickChick is so right, the casting in this version is perfection (even the cat), I had problems with some of the Swedish casting.