Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I've just come from an experience that I've saturated myself in once before, and now, "I've gone and done it again. . ." 

A quote from another Fincher film with feelings and atmosphere this one borrowed from the self-assured, camera and mood savvy director.

There is a quote by someone in the film industry who said, “The world will make their movies, and then America will make them, if it so chooses.” This film, was destined from the novel's first edition to be an American vehicle for two stars to drive, shifting it's gears ferociously.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, or Men Who Hate Woman (The original novel's Swedish title) was a mastercraft along with a few others, one I've personally reviewed here on the site, that show us what Sweden can do, more specifically, what Niels Arden Oplev can do. The Swedes have a deep understanding of how a camera operates. It's not all just mountains and snow over there.

When news came over the wires that Fincher was taking the film for himself, I actually gave a damn of the outcome, and was deeply excited for what was in store. Reader, for who is better suited for a film that contains a serial rapist/murderer, violent sexual abuse, guns, piercings, torture, tattoos, coffee, blood, cigarettes, sex, corruption, murder, family hierarchy and suspense/mystery and even the corpse of a butchered cat — the man who directed, Fight Club, Se7en, and Zodiac, sterling films with brilliant reputations in film history, that's who of course.

In the film, we have Blomkvist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), on the verge of loosing control of his Swedish political publication after printing a story about an industrialist who he pegs some serious criminal allegations on that don't exactly pan out to be entirely accurate. Now, with lawsuits coming across the board, Mikael needs an out, and he needs a plan to beat it. Enter Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) , researcher and security expert and moonlighting computer hacker for Milton Security, who did the background report on Blomkvist. A report that Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plum), an aging very wealthy man, commissioned. He wants to unofficially hire Mikael to investigate his 40 year old itch, the death of his niece, Harriet Vanger. Going to the island, more like an iceberg, he moves into the cottage and this time around more so than last, boy is it cold. He starts to piece together the unsolved mystery and unravel the tangled ball of string that seems to keep tangling itself, again, and again. He finally arrives at the point where a research assistant is required, and, enter Lisbeth to help him catch a killer of women.

She stays at the cottage with him and together they begin to disseminate the machine of the movie, the engine of mystery and family secrets that that keeps it going faster and more deafening until it's conclusion.

Yes, it's been said that Salander is an uncastable girl, then Rapace did it in Sweden, then every one bowed their heads. So, of course, when the news of the remake hit, everyone said, “Stay away from Lisbeth!” Haven’t heard any complaints as of December 20th though. And I'll be the first to say that this material, faithful to the pages, lets Mara get some things out on her own, instead of Mikael pulling them out to show us. The last time around, Lisbeth's inner mechanics and timepiece ticks were a 70/30 split between Lisbeth showing us who she was and Mikael pulling something out of her heart and mind, but that was also a different approach to the base material. This time around, in a more faithful adaptation, we get a 100/0 nothing battle, Rooney Mara is doing all the work to give us a porthole into Salander's head and the heart that still is very much alive in this film.

Here, Lisbeth (of course the real attraction to the film, upstaging the murder mystery plot and Mikael's legal troubles) drives a motorcycle this time, not a dirtbike, she has more then one way to wear leather, she eats Happy Meals, can handle a pistol, drinks alone at bumping clubs, does Spider-man push-ups and loves her tazer. She has, as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell says, "Some hard bark." She is angry, vengeful, nervous at times, annoyed and impatient and a little more exacting in her thoughts and focused on placing them one step after the other. She will smash a bottle into a man's face or make-out with while finger-blasting a sexy girl she just met at a club while the techno blasts loudly. 

But what I thoroughly enjoyed this time around, was how you could see the love inside her, for lest we forget, this is a young woman after all, and Mara shows us this Lisbeth (in only her Salander way) has a beating heart, albeit encased in crude oil and carbon build up from rough driving and no maintenance. A computer is what balances her, lets her take a vacation away from everything else, as the film moves on, we see her get a more secure grip on herself as the research on the murder  continues, coming into command of "oneself" (culminating in an elevator scene I found very delicious). For let it be known, Lisbeth Salander will let you know the hard, why it's wise to embrace the uneasiness she emanates all too well. 

In this film, we miss a few beats though, like how the subway scene in Niels' was a little more driven home, or how Lisbeth taking Mikael's hand is a humongous deal, a leap forward for Lisbeth's acceptance of another. But, we get different versions of that here, like the way Craig wakes up one morning to find Lisbeth laying close to him, with soft eyes. O in the kitchen of the cottage one morning after a specific night, a single line of dialogue from her, “I like working with you. . .” with the faintest hint of a smile. Right up until the very last frame even as she drives off on her motorcycle, where seconds before the wanting and yearning of lonely and feral girl was brought to a pinnacle. I feel in love deeper and deeper one frame after the other all over again with Lisbeth Salander—and it's all Mara and Fincher's fault.

Mara, always someone I found a perfect choice from not just her uncanny visuals in correlation to the source material, more so then Rapace, but as a whole, from the little beats we got in The Social Network. Mara, who met with Rapace got the blessing, read the book cover-to-cover, changed her diet, got real piercings, chopped her hair (the braid is in a zip-lock bag), and lived the life and mindset of this trouble yet brilliant girl. Even off the set, there is evidence of her street clothes, her walk, her eyes, that tell us, “Something is going on inside that girl.” Or, of course, it could be that boiling hatred of paparazzi.

Take this interview between Fincher and Mara for example:
ROONEY MARA: I didn’t accost anyone.
FINCHER: Well, tell me specifically what happened, as if I was your legal team. How reprehensible was your behavior?
MARA: My behavior wasn’t that bad. It was just very shocking because I’ve never done anything like that before.
FINCHER: So my understanding is that there was an altercation with an enthusiastic, possibly inebriated, mid-20s male who, without your consent, decided to lift you into the air.
MARA: Yes.
FINCHER: And then dance with you as if you were some kind of toy.
MARA: Yes.
FINCHER: And you responded by grasping his larynx—with extreme prejudice.
MARA: I very calmly advised him that I could . . .
FINCHER: Do bodily harm.
MARA: Yes, that I could do serious bodily harm, and that he should probably put me down.
FINCHER: I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.
MARA: Why? I don’t know if it was so much a Lisbeth Salander moment.
FINCHER: No, what I like is that it was a Rooney Mara moment.
Craig doesn't miss chance to become unhinged, frightened, weak, beaten, and frustrated here in the film, dressing as if James Bond kept his class but simply dismissed the suits, his eyeglasses dangle from his ears and hang below his chin, ever ready to study his material, the ever vigilante journalist. Please note, this is not James Bond investigating a 40 year old murder, this is Mikael Blomkvist doing it. 

Plum as Henrik, not that we haven't seen him play the older wealthy gentleman too many times before, was all too acceptable as the Patriarch of the family. Robin Wright does what she can to bring authenticity to the role of the Editor in Chief, co-owner of Millennium and Mikael's (married) on/off lover, Erica Berger. Steve Berkoff and Stellan Skarsgard, a native Swede, do their jobs as excellently as they should. It's also worth noting that Dragan Armansky (Goran Višnjić), the CEO of Milton Security and Lisbeth's direct superior, is one of the scarce individuals that impacted her life in a ray of positivity (not a real word but this is my blog not yours) acceptance and recognition, and she believes in him as one who, has her back at all times, we'll say. A surrogate fatheresque man in a way, he looks out for and very much cares for her. Goran (A Croatian actor playing a Croatian person) gives us the feelings of exactly that, in his only scene with her when we first meet her, her trusting nature in him is on display.

For Fincher's part, this film is elevated by a top-notch, A-list crew, equipment and his field experience as a director, outclassing Oplev but not upstaging him. Please understand the difference. This film, as I realized, enjoys itself. By which I mean, every scene nearly feels as if it's an actor in it's own right, winking at the camera and relishing their scene. And it's all powered by the terrific, haunting and unnerving, and soft touching score by Reznor and Ross. We feel the weight of things here, and how much delectable delight the film is dancing with showing us those things. Every scene, coupled with stunning cinematography, is an actor itself, having a blast with their role. Whether that weight is the frigid cold, the black of night, the mountain as the motorcycle whizzes by them, doing research or hacking on a laptop, smoking a cigarette, extracting deviance or revenge, or simply standing around processing one's thoughts. Given such a eye into Salander's world we nearly feel like we can hack into any computer as well just having witnessed a maestro at work. 

Reading the novel and then going to see this film was a rewarding experience, I recommend the combination to any and everyone. Do I dare say I pick this for my shelf over the original, no, and it's not fair to actually take one over the other. These are two different films with two different experiences to offer. 

As I talked about scenes nearly becoming their own actors under Fincher's masterful command, these two films, in a way, are their own performers as well. And hired to do a job, they interpret this material in their own ways, true to their instincts and the only ways they feel they can do it justice. A justice everyone can appreciate. 

And a justice for all.

Munki Out.


  1. So, like. I tend to agree with like... Almost everything you said. Let me go see it for a 4th time, & maybe I'll have something to disagree with. Oh! Remember how I was like "Mara's gonna' suck. Rapace rules!" I obv stand corrected & am now thoroughly obsessed with the girl & her character. She did an amazing job. However, If I had to pick anything apart, like I usually do... it would prob be her Swedish accent that's sometimes uncanny, but sometimes falters. Lol. Thats about it. Otherwise, I'd bang her.

    -Bunni out.

  2. Ok so I'm feeling froggy after seeing it for a 7th time... also I just smoked a joint to the dome, so...

    So Munki (& other people that may read this)...

    She isn't exactly "finger blasting" in the film. It could definitely be interpreted as implied finger-bang/blast. It would have been pretty cool if you maybe got to see them get down... like get ta' some scissorin'... or some Black Swan lesbian action...

    ****[This is the most important note out of ALL of my notes, whether they be mental or written somewhere...] Did you notice the glob of semen on her perfectly pierced right nipple, which appears after her first, "it worked out for you & whats-her-name" sexual encounter w/Blomkvist...?!! It's definitely chillin' there... subtle little glob of baby goo on Mara's little titty. ;) This is the peak of the film. The semen on her boobi. I mean the semen... it should get a best supporting nod or something. I'm freaking out. Ok. Next.

    She is riding a street legal dirt bike, not a straight-up motorcycle.

    I would do the nastiest things to that girl. Fincher too. & Daniel Craig (in that order, please).

    Your welcome for these high brow little tid bits.

    -Bunni Out

  3. I know you know she did a LOT of her own stunts, including riding that bike... I wasn't sure if you mentioned it in here or not. I think that's bad ass. Usually they would leave any motorcycle scenes to stunt girls (or guys), & cutaways, & such.

    I know you mentioned the piercings. I thought that was pretty neat. Both that you mentioned it, & that she did it.

    -Bunni's HIGH & wants a blueberry pancake puppy sundae...