Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If you started looking closely at the structure of the story of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you could probably find a number of flaws and weird issues with it. It takes a long time for its two leads to meet and the plot to really get going, and there's a very long final section after the film climaxes before it actually sputters to an end, which might work in a book, but seems unnatural in a movie. But there are times when the effect that a film has goes beyond how well its story adheres to standard conventions of the medium and the odd little things stop bothering you. The script for this second film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's book is definitely flawed, and it's hard to say how much of that is the fault of the book itself. But everything else about the movie helps elevate the material and create a movie that's not quite my favorite this year but darn close. Everything from David Fincher's impeccable direction to the work by people like the cinematographer and editor to the outstanding performances from basically everyone in the cast to the once again pitch-perfect music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

There are some bells and whistles, but at its core Dragon Tattoo is a mystery story. I started trying to write a quick synopsis here, but it quickly got too long, so I'll try to make it more succinct. Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who agrees to look into the apparent murder of a girl forty years earlier, a member of a family that runs a large business in the country. Rooney Mara plays Lisbeth Salander, another journalist and an unfriendly, possibly psychotic girl who's been a ward of the state since childhood. Eventually they both end up working on the case together, though not before there's a lengthy sequence ending in a very satisfying revenge as a long way of establishing who Lisbeth is and what she's willing to do. The film is somewhat disjointed up to this point, but once the pair get really cracking on the mystery it picks up, with a suitably creepy series of twists and revelations leading to a tense and thrilling conclusion. That the film goes on for a while after that conclusion is mostly irrelevant.

As I mentioned, the cast is quite strong, with film veterans such as Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, and Stellan Skarsgård turning in solid supporting performances to help drive things forward. Craig is good in pretty much everything, and he is nicely out of his element as the middle-aged Blomkvist, who occasionally gets in too deep for his own good. The star of the show really is Mara though, having the tough job of portraying both an eminently skilled researcher and hacker and a highly vulnerable and damaged woman, and making them be the same person. There's a lot of tough material, and she nails all of it. It just wouldn't be the same movie without her succeeding as totally as she does. I questioned Fincher's decision to tackle material another filmmaker had already brought to the screen in apparently fine fashion, but while I still haven't seen Niels Arden Oplev's version I can't imagine it being this memorable. It's a Fincher movie through and through.

1 comment:

Least Obvious Answer said...