Review | The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander

Director David Fincher won recognition when he first embarked on the serial killer genre, in 1995 with Se7en. About ten years later, the Millennium Trilogy is posthumously published by swedish autor Stieg Larsson, conquering millions of fans around the globe. Even having already been adapted to an european minisseries with Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, the union of Fincher and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo shows that the two were made to each other, resulting in one finest movies of the director’s career.

The dense plot focuses on journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), who having receiving a libel sentence after after a disastrous article in his magazine Millennium, is hired by retired industrialist Henrik Vanger to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his niece, Harriet. While isolated in a cottage punished by a freezing winter, he is aided by unique hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara).

As a fan of both Larsson and Fincher’s work, I had hopes for the movie. Fourtonately, the result is nothing less than satisfactory. The amost 500 pages of the trilogy’s first book are condensed in an excellent script from Steven Zaillian (also responsible for this year’s Moneyball, with Aaron Sorkin), managing to balance the two main narrative lines (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall’s precise editing guides us to Blomkvist’s mission and Salander’s abusive life) while presenting truly memorable dialogues, specially the one where one of the characters wanders on how he succefully made another character enter his home (“The fear of offending can be greater than the fear of pain”). Zaillian respects the book, and even with some considerable changes, shows great fidelity to the novel.

Because let one thing be clear: the new Tattoo isn’t a remake of 2009’s film. Fincher and Zaillian deliver their own version, with it’s own narrative; radically differing from Niels Arden Oplen’s work. By this reason, I exempt miself from comparisions to the average swedish film to focus only on Fincher’s masterful work. Detail-obsessed as usual, he bets on the audience’s rationality during impressive investigation scenes: without dialogue, Fincher calls upon small observations and detail shots on newspapers’ headlines and old pictures that gain life through animation (sensational) in a fresh exercice of style.

And what style. Fincher has never used so many visual recourses in his mise en scène to portrait a scene. For instance, Blomkvist’s introduction happens when we see him coming down the steps of a stair, in a sutil metaphor his descend from a high position in journalism, while in a totally different point ot the plot, we watch Salander as – in a very rare move – the camera turns upside down, showing us not only the hacker’s unique world vision, but as well as the brutal switch in the story, where it literally turns upside down.

Meeting of minds: Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara

However, an outstanding directing wouldn’t matter if the cast wasn’t great. And it is. Obviously, we must turn our eyes specially the girl with the dragon tattoo herself, played marvelously by Rooney Mara in a very challenging performance. Skinny, pierced and protagonist of disturbing sex abuse sequences, the not so known actress embodies all of Lisbeth’s complexities, with an intense focus and total immersion in the character. Visually hypnotizing (the different hairstyles of the character mustn’t pass unlooked, as well), Mara is perfect and dominates every second she’s on scene.

Besides the main character, Daniel Craig is great as always with an intelligent and expressive Blomkvist, being fascinating to observe – since he’s globally known as James Bond – his panic when facing dangerous situations, like a gunshot in a forest or a gloomy torture scene (pay attention to the musical choice of said scene), where we see nothing worthy of 007. Also, Christopher Plummer and Robin Wright have good moments as, respectivately, industrialist Henrik Vanger and co-editor of Millennium, Erika Berger. And Stellan Skarsgard is darkly brilliant as Martin Vanger, brother of the missing girl.

Outstanding as well in the technical field, Jeff Cronenweth’s pasteurized cinematography aids Fincher on the composition of a dark, atmospheric environment, while Baxter and Wall’s editing offers velocity during complex scenes and time-passing sequences (such as the genius transition during the lighting of a cigarette). On a similar note, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s (last year’s Oscar winners for The Social Network) hauting score provides scary, deep chords that differ completely from the “standard” definiton of music we find on contemporary motion pictures. All of this creates a very heave atmosphere to Larsson’s already dark depiction of Sweden.

Also presenting a furiously entrancing opening credits sequence (worthy of it’s own review), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo offers everything the book franchise deserves, providing and envolving, adult movie and shooting talented Rooney Mara to star status. It also provides us the rare possibility of an adult blockbuster franchise.

Let’s hope David Fincher doesn’t take long to come back in The Girl Who Played with Fire.

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