Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Movie Review: Girl With A Dragon Tattoo

I just watched the newly released David Fincher film, "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo". And it was fantastic! Let's start with the plot. The plot of the film is exceedingly simple. (No, that is not a bad thing.) Disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is hired to investigate a 40 year old missing persons case and is assisted by the titular character, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). But that simplicity allows for two things: one, it provides a solid framework for what is a truly stellar film, and two, it elicits a deeper questioning: Why has this journalist been disgraced? Who would choose a disgraced journalist to investigate a missing persons case? Why investigate after 40 years? Just reading the plot of the film had me asking a bunch of questions. Which is fantastic for a mystery thriller, especially one by David Fincher.

Watching a David Fincher film is always an interesting experience. The single most intriguing aspect of the film was the amoral landscape of the film. The bulk of the story takes place on the  Vanger family island, which already sets the events of the film in a kind of clean, distant space, that allows for an almost clinically detached experience, but Fincher enhances that emotional detachment by shooting in severe, spartan sets and wide shots that keep the viewer far away from the events, and has the side effect of downplaying the visceral reaction to the brutality of some of the film. Yet, at the same, he delivers a steady stream of expositions, plot development, and story twists that keep the viewer MENTALLY engaged in the film. 

A lot has been stated about the casting of Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. There has been buzz and critique in equal amounts. Coming out of the film, I can honestly say that Mara delivered a fantastic performance. Her physical transformation alone was reminiscent of Christian Bale (Check him out in The Machinist to see what I mean.), and yes, I mean that as a compliment. Mara played Lisbeth to the hilt, coming across as vulnerable, strong, empathic, psychotic, hyper-intelligent and emotionally naive. It was a truly engrossing performance from a relatively new actress. She even managed to steal scenes from Daniel Craig, and that is truly impressive in my book.

Speaking of Daniel Craig, I've felt sorry for him ever since he became the new James Bond. The amazing popularity of his more brutal version of Bond seemed to cement his career's inevitable doom: typecasting. Which would honestly suck, because Craig is an exceptionally talented actor. ( My favorite film of his: Layer Cake.) But this film gave him the perfect opportunity to shatter the Bond image into itty bitty pieces. 

One of the toughest things to portray on screen is intelligence, of any kind. For all that I love of the character, 007 isn't an intelligent man. Clever and street smart? Yes. Intelligent? No. And that's how Craig breaks away from the Bond character in this film. In playing the disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, Craig portrays the investigative mind perfectly. You can literally SEE the connections being made and the deductions coming to light as he pores over the information presented to him over and over again. And this is enhanced when he enlists the help of Mara's character and they set in to investigate the disappearance. When they started working on the case, it evoked an image of Sherlock Holmes & Watson coming together on their first case. I'm hoping that this film does well, so that the other two films can be brought to light under the OCD eye of David Fincher.

However, this movie is something of a slow burn. It's a film that you have to devote a lot of attention to and that slow plays its audience throughout the entire film. Fincher utilizes that slow place to enhance the tension in some scenes, to break up the exposition in others, and to add emotional distance to yet other scenes. The one constant is that slow pace. And that could be the film's downfall. I'm really hoping this one does well. I would love to see more movies like this.

If you're looking for a slow paced, intense thriller, then "Girl With A Dragon Tattoo" is the film for you. I mean it, you'll LOVE it.

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