As we follow our protagonists, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, on separate, yet intertwined, paths, we get to uncover a murder mystery surrounding an affluent Swedish family, The Vanger’s, and ingest an odd character study in Salander. Blomkvist is a disgraced journalist given the task of uncovering the truth behind the Vanger’s unresolved murder of one of their own, a young girl named Harriet, who’s murderer has been tormenting her uncle for almost 40 years. Salander on the other hand is an odd fellow who is dealing with quite the crisis of her own as we watch her struggle for independence from a life where she is un-trusted and threatened with institutionalization. Both narratives are compelling, made even more so once they are brought together, and the turns and depths the film is willing to go will surely shock and surprise.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not an easy film to swallow and will ask you to go to some very dark places along the way.
Salander’s life is neither easy nor normal and the circumstances that arise lead her to pain one can’t imagine. Rooney Mara is just phenomenal in the part and she goes all out for the role. Whether it’s her hair, the piercings, baring it all, or enduring a brutal encounter she must live through for the part, Mara takes it all seemingly in stride. She nails the character’s demeanor and oddness and I can’t image anyone else in the part; yes even Noomi Rapace. Daniel Craig’s Blomkvist allows for a lighter proceeding, relatively, but even his path will lead to some fucked up places. The darker material is right at home for Fincher and his fans, and while there are some rough patches here, fans of his previous work should be more than capable of handling Dragon Tattoo.
Speaking of Fincher, his work here is as sharp as is expected. One of the finer looking and produced film’s of the year, I feel spoiled that we got two films from him in just over a year. Fincher is without a doubt one of the best directors working today and he shows no regression here. The film finds its own style while still feeling like a Fincher film and it seems to be one of his most practical films, as in lack of digital trickery, since The Game. Though, the man is so damn good at hiding his digital trickery I imagine I will be shocked to find some elements were in fact not as real as they seemed. The film’s pacing and editing is also a marvel as I felt this two hour and forty minute film was moving along almost too fast for most of the runtime. It isn’t till the third act that we get to relax a little and stay with a scene for an extended period of time, only to have said scenes ramp up the tension with some brilliant slow burns. There are some wonderful editorial standouts moments throughout and fans of technical filmmaking will have endless elements to enjoy. The cinematography is as handsome as ever for a Fincher film and he accompanies it all with another great score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Oh, and there is a musical cue in the climax of the film that is a stroke of genius; ‘sail away’. Fincher’s vision for the source material is so well done that I wish I hadn’t digested the previous versions, which is how essential the picture is for both fans and virgins to the material.
I mentioned Mara and Craig before, but they deserve to be talked about some more. Mara can’t earn enough praise as she absorbs herself in the role and plays wonderfully off Craig. There is seemingly nothing she won’t do and Fincher asks her to do just about everything. Craig helps ground the film and gives the film a bit of humor that is much appreciated to offset the darker tone of the picture. Mara is also able to inject some comedy into the picture with the deadpan Slander and I found myself laughing way more than I would have expected to in a film of this nature. The show is mostly our two leads, but there is a fine supporting cast surrounding them as well. Christopher Plummer is excellent in his brief scenes as Henrik Vanger and it is a shame we didn’t get more of him throughout. Stellan Skarsgård nails the role of Martin Vanger as he strikes the perfect balance needed for the part. Robin Wright gets little to do, but nails the accent and chemistry with Craig. Lastly, Yorick van Wageningen has as difficult a role as anyone to play here and he does so marvelously. It’s no easy task what he is asked to do and he plays the aftermath perfectly.
In the end, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a dark and engaging mystery that shouldn’t be missed. If you have read the book, seen the previous film incarnation, or just don’t like the title, I beg you to give it a chance. Fincher has delivered another cold and calculated drama for us to enjoy and delivered us the amazing Rooney Mara in the process. Given a chance to shine, Mara doesn’t miss it, and she delivers one of the best performances of the year in Lisbeth Salander. A film I find nearly impossible to criticize, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the best films of the year. I envy those that get to experience this story for the first time through Fincher’s film.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an A