Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an Edgy Tale with Rooney Mara stealing the film

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (3 1/2 out 5 Stars)
Directed by David Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club, Se7en)
Written by Steve Zallian (Moneyball, Gangs of New York, Schindler's List)
Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, and Christopher Plummer

I can hear the groans already, another book being made into a movie. Wait, what?  Stieg Larson's book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was already made into a movie?  There was a Sweedish version?  I can hear even more groans from people stating "Hollywood is going to take another foreign film and remake it for American audiences."  This is a double whammy that could have proved disastrous.  I think the opposite happened.  While I did not love the book, and the Swedish film was solid, but this may be the best version of this story.

The film starts with Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) walking out of court after he loses a libelist case against a major business tycoon.  Blomkvist works for an independent magazine called Millennium; he tells his business partner and love Erika Berge (Robin Wright) he is going to be stepping away from the magazine.  While this is happening Blomkvist is being investigated by a third party named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) because Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) wants him to help him solve a murder mystery.  Blomkvest takes the the case and finds himself surrounded by despicable people on a dark and twisted path to find a killer of women.

Fincher was the right man to tackle this film.  I can think of no other director who could handle the subject matter better; he knows how to construct films centered around dark subject matters.  Fincher has found found musical soul mates in Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  Reznor and Ross composed one of the best original scores for The Social Network and their score creates an eerie wonderful composition for this film.  The score sets the mood perfectly for this film and is one of the best elements of this film.  Fincher knows how to construct stories, and enjoyed the work he did here.

The interesting part of this film was knowing the book and the differences from the book to film.  The subject matter of this book is deft, there are 465 pages worth of material.  Most adaptations need to trim the fat, and change things for the screen.  This film version did both.  There are moments in the film where I was glad they cut things, or changed things up a bit.  The biggest change is the ending.  Many fans complain when the ending of a book is changed, it works here, but I also think it works because it makes things less complicated.  Zallian's screenplay while not amazing makes the material sharper and concise for the silver screen.  In the book Lisbeth is a major character, but the main focus seems to be Mikael.  This film uses one of the darkest heroines well, and integrates her story into the film seamlessly.

Lisbeth's portrayer Rooney Mara is fantastic in this role; she plays a girl with no emotions perfectly.  As Lisbeth is still a ward of the state at 24 she has been seen as a menace, but she refuses to be a victim to societal norms.  Mara plays this role with great ease and conviction as though it comes natural to her; she has not had many starring roles, but I would imagine her strong performance in this film will catapult her into stardom.

This dark tale is not fun holiday material it is a solid piece of work. This film proves that even with a second coming there can be a worthwhile vantage point for new audiences.  While there are moments when this film feels a bit impersonal, where the secondary characters seem out of the loop the the Vanger family whom this film is somewhat about.  People will also question the connection that builds between Lisbeth and Mikhael, how does it form, where does it come from?  There are some holes that screenplay does not cover up.  These flaws in screenplay come because adapting this sometimes off putting book into something better is a chore.  I give the team behind this film props for making me like a film about a book I did not care for.

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