Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

I in fact watched original film adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo last year with the intention of reviewing it for this blog but for whatever reason I never got around to it. With the Hollywood “remake” looming I planned on re-watching the film this past summer and reviewing it then but again I didn’t get around to it. So, kind of out of nowhere, the new film was suddenly out in theaters and I still hadn’t reviewed its predecessor. Sometimes you just have to say “I’m beat” and move on.

So anyway this flick, like the 2009 version, is based on the best selling Swedish novel of the same name (Though technically in Sweden its original name translates to “Men Who Hate Women”, which is a depressingly accurate title) by Stieg Larsson, the first book of the Millennium Series. Apparently when he was 15 years old Larsson saw a young woman being gang raped. The scene haunted him for decades and he never forgave himself for not helping her. This led him to write these books, which deal heavily with the theme of sexual violence against women and the deserved backlash towards the men who committed them. The books are international sensations and so movies were inevitable. The three books were all turned into films in Sweden and the movie we are reviewing today is the first attempt on Hollywood to get a piece of that sweet, sweet Dragon Tattoo cake.

God help us all.

Okay, so this film is directed by David Fincher who also directed my favorite movie Fight Club as well as one of my favorite films of 2010 The Social Network, both also based on books. So, in theory, this flick has a decent chance of not completely sucking despite Hollywood’s seemingly unending goal of ruining everything that is good and pure on planet Earth. If you recall in my review of the Social Network I very briefly mention that Rooney Mara had been cast in the lead role and that I was unhappy with that decision. Well...

Find out more after the jump.

Lisbeth in a rare moment of not kicking ass
(To be fair she's doing some kick-ass research)
Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a writer for the magazine Millennium. He has also just been convicted of libel against a well-known businessman which ultimately costs him the vast majority of his life savings. His reputation in taters Mikael is contacted by a lawyer representing Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), former CEO of Vanger Industries. Henrik would like Mikael to help him solve a mystery that has tormented him for decades. Meanwhile Lisbeth Salander (Mara), a brilliant but troubled young hacker and researcher who incidentally was hired by Vanger to investigate Mikael, is trying to live her life on her terms as best she can but her new legal guardian is a sadist and is viciously disrupting her life. These two strangers’ paths soon cross and the two find themselves knee deep in the Vanger Family’s dirty secrets.

So, um, yeah…this movie is awesome. First of all shame on me for doubting Rooney Mara. Well actually I don’t think I was wrong to be wary since the role of Lisbeth must be a very difficult one and the only film I’ve ever seen Mara in before was as a (barely) supporting role in The Social Network. But the fact is that she nails the performance in what I have to say is one of the best of the year. Her transformation into Lisbeth is incredible and she absolute portrays herself as a drastically different type of human being in a completely convincing manner. Even things as subtle as body language; Rooney Mara is fantastic here. Now again, this only marks the second movie I’ve seen her in and I’m 100% convinced that even the worst actors can gain massive critical acclaim for a uncharacteristically good role so I can’t say with certainty that Mara is an amazing actress overall but I will say that she’s earned a tremendous amount of leeway from me with this flick and I’m interested in seeing more form her.

Also in the interest of full disclosure I did consider putting Mara on my Hottest Women in Hollywood List but I realized that as of now I don’t have enough references to decide what the appropriate level of drooling over her is. I think I was being influenced by the fact that I think I’m attracted to the (Fictional) Lisbeth like crazy in this film. I mean come one; brilliant, bad attitude, covered in tattoos and piercings and sporting an occasional Mohawk? Yes please.

Keep at it, sport
*Ahem* Anyway the rest of the cast is solid, strong even. So when I say that Mara carries the film, even with all the performances that would normally be considered really well done, please understand how highly I think of her here. I heard some complaints about Daniel Craig here, not with his performance exactly but his accent. Or lack of accent. I admit that he sounds like a Englishman throughout film despite being from Stockholm but honestly several people, even Mara, sound a bit funky from time to time. And hey, at least he tried to do an accent unlike those lazy bastards from The Three Musketeers. I’m not counting it against this movie.

This film also does a very good job of keeping me invested. Since I saw the original film I pretty much knew where most of the beats were but I was still very engaged with the story, mainly due to the strength of the two main characters (And by that I mean Lisbeth and her dragon tattoo…okay, Mikael’s not too bad either). In a sense I’ve seen this movie already and yet I still was excited to be seeing it told to me again. Part of this is the subtle, and at times not s subtle, differences between this flick and the first one. Interestingly David Fincher deiced to not change the setting from the book. I was certain it’d all take place in upstate New York but it remains in Sweden, which I was thankful for. This adds a much needed air of respectability in this adaptation. Also there are some differences, especially the ultimate fate of Harriet and Lisbeth, that stand out more than others. Now I haven’t read the book (And I won’t for reasons I don’t feel like trying to justify) but after researching for this blog I have reason to believe that some of this was left out of the original movie but was present in the book. If this is the case that would imply that this movie isn’t a remake of the 2009 film but a separate adaptation of the same source material. And in fact a closer adaptation at that.

David Fincher...Wins!
I was taken aback but how little punches this movie pulled compared to the original. I mean 2009 movie is still probably a little more intense (And if you’ve seen either version you know which scenes I’m really talking about) but for a mainstream Hollywood film I was impressed (Disgusted?) with how far they went. Not a PG-13 affair here, folks.

There are not a whole of negative things t say about this movie unless I had to nitpick. One problem though is the fact that the ending drags. There’s a conflict resolution but then the movie continues on for what felt like an eternity. Maybe it was ten minutes, maybe it was twenty; it’s kind of a blur. This is a bigger problem for those of us who ordered the large soda and by that point really needed to hit the restroom but even so a lot of those scenes felt unnecessary. In the original most of this stuff was shortened and implied rather than showing details like it does here and I feel like that worked a lot better there than here.

Despite that one issue this movie rocks. The number of movies I’ve seen this year that I liked more; extremely small. Much of this film’s strength lies in both the impressive performance of Rooney Mara and the character Lisbeth. Lisbeth is a badass and my favorite type of character; capable being awesome but also deeply flawed. If you are on the fence about this flick I say go for it. I would be shocked and a little angry if this film wasn’t up some several major awards at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Breakfast at Lisbeth's
I give The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 5 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


-Strong Female Lead (Who happens to be hot)

- Engaging story

-Possesses a heart wrenching, but ultimately important theme

-Rooney Mara is great in this flick


-The ending drags for a while

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