There is an inherent flaw in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Stieg Larsson's novel is messy and convoluted. One step above a typical Dan Brown book, Stieg wrote airport thrillers - fast and exciting while you read them, but ultimately without consequence or true impact. Yet the books have become massively popular not only in the US but worldwide, and that is very likely because of Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is likely the most recognizable and well loved character in modern fiction besides, of course, Harry Potter. Lisbeth is a strong female the likes of which are so rarely seen in fiction. She is troubled and abused, yes; but she is also fierce, badass, and wildly independent. Adorned in punk attire, her exterior choices all but tell you to stay away.
As portrayed by Rooney Mara, Lisbeth crackles on the screen. Mara's eyes tell the story and it is incredibly difficult to look away. Her physicality is impressive; despite being of small stature Mara projects great strength simply through body language. And yet there is a vulnerability hiding within that allows us to not only relate but to truly care. Using a vaguely Swedish accent, Mara's performance is wholly captivating, running inwards and outwards. Her Lisbeth Salander is a great screen icon and that alone would be enough to make this a good film.
Yet that's not all. David Fincher has slowly evolved into one of modern cinema's true masters. His control and craft is impeccable. His focus on detail and specificity unparalleled. For the third time, after the sensational Se7en and Zodiac, Fincher finds himself directing a film about the investigation into a killer. Whereas Se7en was grimy and hellish and Zodiac was meticulous and comprehensive, Dragon Tattoo finds itself somewhere directly in the middle. Fincher has made a propulsive, beautifully paced, and incredibly intense film that is uncompromising in its content and yet he isn't afraid to linger on the characters. It is that, above all else, that makes this such a successful adaptation and in fact, I think, improves on the source material.
The film is structured in two halves. In the first, we spent approximately 80 minutes jumping back and forth between Rooney's Lisbeth and Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist. Craig is an effortlessly watchable actor, and he brings surprising warmth to Mikael. He is an easy hero to root for, and he looks terrific in a sweater. There is a particular thing that Craig does with his glasses when he is not wearing them that I loved; it is these little touches that makes the films of Fincher feel lived in. At the 80 minute mark Lisbeth and Mikael finally meet and this is when the film truly begins to sing and the investigation takes off. Craig and Mara have an easy chemistry and the relationship that develops between Lisbeth and Mikael is my favorite part of the film. The remainder of the cast - Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgaard, Joely Richardson, and Robin Wright - are all strong.
Again working with cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who have written one of the year's best scores, Dragon Tattoo is visually and aurally masterful. The tone of the film is particularly dark and hellish for a 100 million dollar blockbuster, and Fincher highlights the darker corners of Swedish society. The stark white of snow falling to the ground has rarely been so startling. Like the novel, the film lacks true dramatic impact. And yet, frankly, I didn't care. Working with screenwriter Steve Zaillian, who has fleshed out the characters and streamlined the narrative, Fincher has made a masterful piece of pulp filmmaking. It is intense, violent, sexual, and incredibly compelling to watch. As you are sucked into this hypnotic world of wealthy Swedish families, badass girls in black, investigative journalists, and the incredible sounds and visuals you don't care that the film isn't really about much of anything; you care that you've just been rocked to your core and had one hell of a great time.
Last edited by SpikeDurden; 12-15-2011 at 11:01 PM..