So last week once again came and went without a post. I really intended on writing, really I did. But after a flooded bathroom and a nasty cold, I just wasn’t in the right mood to start things up.
Anyway, enough with the excuses, here’s my first review of the relaunched blog. It probably won’t be as detailed or in-depth as it would have been, given the time since I saw the movie, but here goes.
Based on the first book in Stieg Larsson’s internationally acclaimed Millenium trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the newest thriller from director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network). The story is a bleak tale, set in Sweden, that follows two main characters; one, a man, Mikael Blomkvist, who after publishing a piece trashing a powerful businessman, finds himself convicted of libel. After stepping down from his job, he is approached by the head of a wealthy family with the job of solving a long unsolved murder case, under the guise of being hired to write a family history. The other story thread follows Lizbeth Salander, an emotionless, damaged woman, who for various reasons has grown up a ward of the state, as she deals with her own struggles and eventually finds herself tied up in solving the murder case as well.
Chances are, you are already familiar with the story, with the hugely popular books and a very successful Swedish film adaptation already available, so I will avoid too much discussion of the story, and instead focus more heavily on Fincher’s adaptation.
Before I get into the movie itself however, I need to stop and say, “What the hell was with that opening credit sequence?” The movie begins with what can only be described as a twisted James Bond movie opening drenched in black ink (that happens to also be flammable.) And all of this is set to a crazy, electronic cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. Huh? I don’t see the tie in… Kind of over the top and disjointed from the fairly (stylistically) understated movie that follows. That said, it’s visually stunning and makes for a pretty cool music video (but really, we could have done without it…)
Now, the movie itself. Short review, I really liked it. Fincher is definitely still at it, mixing some of his more recent mature storytelling with his older, darker, twisty work of the past. Beyond that, the only way I can honestly review this movie is by comparing it to the already existing, well made Swedish film. Was this version necessary? Probably not. But does that mean it’s worthless and shouldn’t have been made? Definitely not. I was very happy with the Swedish version and would have remained happy had that been the only available version, however this movie is a completely different experience overall. The Swedish movie was a very direct narrative that told the story simply and successfully. This movie, as a Fincher project, oozes style (though nothing over the top) from beginning to end.
So which one is better? That is obviously a matter of taste, but since you are here and reading this, you’d probably like a more concrete answer. From my opinion, the answer is without a doubt, the Fincher version. To begin with, I am a huge fan of Fincher’s visual style. As bleak and horrible as the story may become, the cinematography in this is beautiful. The shots of the Swedish countryside, particularly those in the snow, are absolutely stunning. Also, the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (who previously worked together on The Social Network), sets the mood perfectly. It’s hard to even call it music at many points throughout the film, but it really plays with your nerves and puts you in this odd, tense emotional state that really works with the story.
And speaking of the story, most importantly, I think Fincher’s version is a much better representation of the book. In the Swedish film, it is very much the story of Mikael Blomkvist throughout, and eventually we get Lisbeth Salander as a co-star, well developed for sure, but definitely a second string character. In the Fincher film, from the very beginning, both of these characters are given equal importance and their stories alternate back and forth until finally coming together into one story line towards the end. I really enjoyed this decision and it really helps to flesh out the characters and their individual worlds. It’s not completely perfect however, as it does come along with my one real complaint about this movie; the editing. Because we are constantly switching back and forth between the two characters, it really requires some creative editing to make these transitions smoothly. Most of the time this works very well, but when things start switching back and forth more rapidly, it makes for some very abrupt cuts that do feel a little jarring every once in a while.
Finally, the cast. For the majority of the cast, I’ll make a blanket statement. I really enjoyed everyone cast in this film and the casting of this movie and the Swedish movie on a whole are fairly equal. In fact, a large majority of the actors cast in this film almost feel as if they were cast to echo the other film. The one true exception to this is Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. I had originally seen the Swedish movie before reading the book and immediately fell in love with Noomi Rapace’s performance of Lisbeth Salander. However, after reading the book, and now having Fincher’s version, I was BLOWN AWAY by Rooney Mara. She IS the character. Noomi Rapace’s version was an aggressive, feminist, strong female character that was headstrong and went through life with a real determination to never be taken advantage of. It’s a great character, but she’s missing the lack of emotion and disconnect from the world that the character has in the book. Heck, in the book, they even refer to her as (possibly?) having Asperger syndrome. Rooney Mara gives us all of this. Devoid of emotion and going through life on pure instinct and defense mechanism, it truly means something when she develops a real friendship with Mikael Blomkvist. It adds real weight to a lot of the events that happen to her and the decisions that she makes throughout the film.
So, in the end, while this suffers from some editing problems, and an odd change to the epilogue of the story (not bad necessarily, just unneeded), it was a great film. At over 2 and a half hours long, it is nearly as long as the Swedish version, and yet it never felt slow and seemed to be over much more quickly. I do own the Swedish version and will continue to return to both versions, however, for me, this is now the definitive film version of Stieg Larsson’s book. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, definitely check this one out (especially if you aren’t a fan of subtitles…). For those of you who have seen the Swedish version, and even if you loved it, I would recommend watching this just to see another interpretation of the source material. If you don’t like it, you can always go back to the Swedish film, but as it did with me, it just may prove to be your preferred version.
Now I only need to hope that Fincher finishes the trilogy (particularly because it was the second and third movies that really suffered in the Swedish versions, due to small budget and other constraints).
Finally, for those who’ve seen both: