Thursday, December 22, 2011


Directed By: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara
Based on the novel by Stieg Larson

This film is intense, sexy, violent and right up Fincher's ally. I read the book last year and I was aware of the Niels Arden Oplev film that came out in 2009. *I never took the opportunity to watch the Swedish version of the film, but after seeing this one, I am interested in checking it out. What I especially like about Fincer's take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is that you do not need to have read the book to get sucked into the mystery. This film, unlike the Oplev's film, has received a lot of attention state side, not just for the famous director, but for the stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. 

The film opens with an amazing, graphic, title sequence. It's not worth trying to describe, you just have to see it. Immediately, the dark, moody atmosphere sets a beautiful silvery tone that lasts throughout the film. This is quite a long movie but there is a unique balance between long, thoughtful silences and loud, intense violence that make time fly. There are moments of dark humor and they even managed to work in an interesting little love story. This film combines everything a Fincher fan could want and it is an excellent cure for the holiday blues.

Despite the big names involved in this film,  don't expect that traditional Hollywood gloss. This film is raw and some people might be a bit disturbed by a few scenes. As an adaptation, the film is great because it stands on its own as a great piece of art. Fincher is a master of capturing the under belly of modern culture, he does it so well in fact, that you wish you could live in the dark worlds he creates.

The film weaves in and out between two distinct story lines. The first follows Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a disgraced journalist, hired by an old industrialist to solve a decades old family mystery. The other follows Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) a 23 year old ward of the state and gifted researcher/hacker hired as Blomkvist's assistant. Blomkvist and Salander exist in two different worlds, but are both are driven to pursue truth and both have an innate sense of righteousness.

Blomkvists world surrounds the newspaper business and the Swedish elite. Salanders world is mysterious, violent and a bit sexy. For about half of the film the two exists alone in their own worlds, but the very best scenes in the film involve Blomkvist and Salander, quite, in their arctic refuge musing over documents, and photographs. Both Craig and Mara give near perfect performances in their respective roles.

Rooney Mara is incredibly powerful as Lisbeth and it's probably safe to say she nailed it. Mara is completely unrecognizable in the role and has gone from unknown to super star literally over night. Salander is a complex character with a murky past. The book takes great time to explain her history and her quirks in excruciating detail to the point that she becomes larger than life. The film is the same, but unlike the book Fincher rooted Lisbeth in the real world which made her more relatable.

This film is anything but subtle and I do not think any actress could have captured this character the way Mara did. She has multiple nude scenes and many of them involve sexual violence that will make your skin crawl. Mara's performance is cutting and impassioned, she has really raised the bar for actors across the board.

Although Mara is the break out star of the film, Daniel Craig gets the most screen time. I find it rather hard to be impartial to his performance because he is such a handsome man, all I see are his abs and rippling manliness. But seriously, Daniel Craig is hot, he has never looked better. As Blomkvist, he spends most of the time in thoughtful silences and in the snow, chasing down lead after lead on his relentless quest. He is a single minded, musing bachelor, obsessed with work and with little connection to other people. However, when Blomkvist and Salander's paths cross, Craig is at his very best.

The bond that develops between Blomkvist and Salander is an excellent interpretation of how modern relationships work. There is no romance, no lofty admissions of love. In fact, their relationship is as calculated as their research into the old industrialist's mystery. Mara and Craig have a very intense, sexy chemistry, you wont be able to take your eyes off them.

The film also stars Christopher Plummer as the old industrialist Henrick Vanger, Robin Wright as the editor of Blomkvist's disgraced newspaper, and Stellen Skarsgard as Martin Vagner. Though Mara and Craig draw the eye, the supporting cast is also quite good. With a 2 hour running time, there was enough room to give detailed history on all of the side characters. This film could have been incredibly confusing, but Fincher really tapped into the heart of each character's story and brought it to life with out being tedious.

Artistically, the film is incredible. There is a nice contrast between beautiful snowy landscapes and dark, silvery cityscapes, monotone overcast days, and cold, soggy nights. The visuals are perfectly complimented by an outstanding soundtrack by Trent Reznor. The cinematography is classic Fincher, which shouldn't be too surprising since he worked his long time DP Jeff Cronenweth. This film has the sensibility of Se7en and Fight Club but it is much more controlled and mature.

I think this will go down as one of Fincher's most ambitious and most successful films. From start to finish it is as close to perfect as an adaptation gets. He made the film his own while staying true to the soul of the book. He does take some liberties, but it in no way negates the overall quality of the film. This film is worth ponying up the $7.00 to see in theaters, especially because there is nothing better than 13 foot high, topless Daniel Craig.

A- : This film isn't for everyone, and those with delicate sensibilities might be a little taken aback, but if you love dark, moody, mysteries you will love this film, even if you never read the book.

* I saw the Oplev films and they are amazing! They are different from Fincher's take, but still worthy of a view. 

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