Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher's version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo boasts the filmmaker's usual impeccable control over his material and a magnetic performance by an actor relatively new to center stage. What Fincher is stuck with however is the hot stew of a plot provided by novelist Steig Larsson: Nazis, private islands, serial killers, rape, and plenty of sociopathic behavior. This time out Daniel Craig is the journalist Mikael Blomkvist, disgraced when an expose he writes can't be proven and happy to accept a job offer from industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer, having a ball). Henrik wants Blomkvist to investigate the 40-year old disappearance of his niece Harriet, who vanished on a day when the only bridge to the Vanger's island was sealed off after a car accident. Much of the movie's first act is a long build-up to the meeting between Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the pierced, tattooed hacker whose breaching of Blomkvist's computer sets the story in motion. Any Larsson adaptation is only as good as its Lisbeth, and while Mara is wraith-like and frightening during her final encounter with the abusive parole officer (Yorick van Wageningen) who controls her money she also brings a welcome streak of vulnerability to the role. If you’ve read the book or seen the Swedish film then trying to summarize the plot is pointless. Blomkvist and Salander do considerable detective work involving old photos, codes, and maps and Fincher incorporates all this detail into the narrative without a hiccup. This Dragon Tattoo is a small masterpiece of film editing. Blomkvist also meets a number of the other Vangers; most importantly Martin (Stellan Skarsgard), who is in charge of carrying on the family’s business interests. It all ends in blood and fire.

No matter how good Rooney Mara is as Lisbeth, and she is good, she can’t escape the fact that Lisbeth is a brilliant fantasy object who can only express herself through sex and violence. Mara, like Noomi Rapace in the Swedish film, must play a brutal scene of Lisbeth’s victimization at the hands of a man. It’s a chilling moment for how much Mara commits to Lisbeth’s terror, and despite the intense violence it seems just when Lisbeth later responds in kind. The most surprising and disappointing thing then about Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo is how quickly it domesticates its title character. It turns out all Lisbeth needs is some good loving; look at how Blomkvist sets out plates when he comes to Lisbeth’s apartment for the first time, and then note how Lisbeth mirrors the behavior after their first night together,. Fincher and writer Steven Zaillian, with help from Mara, blow up something that I think was implicit in Larsson’s conception of this character. Men are pigs, but if Lisbeth has sex with the right man then she’ll be just fine. Remember how attracted Lisbeth seemed to the woman she brought home from a nightclub? Well by the end of the movie Lisbeth and Blomkvist are practically cuddling (while still working of course). The end of the film is, to my surprise, faithful to Larsson’s book. Rooney Mara gives Lisbeth her all, but the dualities Steig Larsson requires of this character are finally too much to bear. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is as well made as we’d expect from David Fincher, but is finally his most shallow film since The Game.

1 comment:

Naya Saal said...

He might have given unnaturally overhyped Se7en and "Social Network"...But this one s truly amazing....
Definitely,a collector's item