The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo reviews

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Re: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Dec 13, 2011 5:50 pm

Lou Lumenick chimes in:

As you may well have suspected because of the strenuous efforts by Sony and producer Scott Rudin to enforce an embargo that finally expired today, David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'' is not really Best Picture material, though Rooney Mara could conceivably get a Best Actress nomination as the bisexual punk blogger Elisabeth Salander. Though I've not read Steig Larsson's novel nor seen the 2008 movie derived from it (unlike my esteemed colleague, Kyle Smith, who has will be reviewing for The Post), there was still a second-hand feel about this elaborate, sometimes quite stylish production.

It's by no means a bad film and will likely be a huge moneymaker, at least overseas (I question how many Americans will really want to follow Christmas dinner with a grim, humorless movie containing a brutal rape scene). In artistic terms, Fincher doesn't seem to truly make the literary material his own, the way he did with his Best Picture nominees "The Social Network'' and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'' or "Zodiac,'' some of my favorite films of recent years.

I found "Dragon Tattoo," which works better as a character study, surprisingly short on thrills. I correctly guessed the culprit ten minutes in (blame too on-the-nose casting). And all too often, I found myself conscious I was watching American, Canadian and British actors speaking English while pretending to be Swedes on Swedish locations. This now-hoary convention worked a lot better when George Cukor remade an in-some-ways remarkably similar Swedish thriller as "A Woman's Face'' on the MGM lot 70 years ago. Joan Crawford deserved a Best Actress nomination for that one, but didn't get it.

Update: Poor Miss Mara was snubbed in today's nominations from the Broadcast Film Critic Association's Critics Choice Awards (aka the poor man's Golden Globes). "Dragon Tattoo'' landed just two nods, for score in editing, as the BFCA showered nominations on "The Artist'' and "Hugo.''


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Re: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Tue Dec 13, 2011 9:42 am

Again, I'm not hiding any spoilers. Sorry.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
13 December, 2011 | By Tim Grierson
Screendaily


Dir: David Fincher. US. 2011. 158mins



Monstrously skilful and powerfully engrossing, director David Fincher’s American remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is such a taut thriller that it’s a pity it overstays its welcome with an extended finale that isn’t nearly as satisfying. Based on Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel, this new Dragon Tattoo comes hot on the heels of the 2009 Swedish version, making it impossible not to compare the two. In the final analysis, Fincher’s is the stronger movie, although it could have used some of the character development of the original.

Fincher’s elegant tension is front and centre in this remake, which makes for a propulsive, if somewhat chilly, thriller.
Despite audience familiarity with Dragon Tattoo and its vivid heroine Lisbeth Salander, Sony is taking a risk releasing this extremely dark and occasionally kinky thriller on December 21 during the midst of the holiday season, when family fare usually reigns. Additionally, Daniel Craig remains a box office star, but the question remains how loyal viewers are to him when he’s not playing James Bond, which proved problematic for the underperforming Cowboys & Aliens and Dream House. Of Christmastime’s high-profile offerings, Dragon Tattoo will be among the films that requires strong reviews and word-of-mouth to help ensure its commercial success.

As Dragon Tattoo opens, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) finds himself disgraced and penniless after a libel conviction for an investigative piece he wrote. Fortuitously, he is approached by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), an aging, wealthy businessman who hires Mikael to investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet, who went missing more than 40 years ago. Needing assistance digging into the mystery, Mikael befriends Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a young Goth woman cursed with deep emotional issues but blessed with superb sleuthing abilities.

Fincher has just come off three “prestige” pictures – Zodiac, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and The Social Network – so consequently Dragon Tattoo might seem like a throwback to his early career when he was directing moody, twisted thrillers like Seven and The Game. But his new film doesn’t feel like slumming: Rather, Dragon Tattoo is a gloriously electric and vibrant crime-thriller that zips along with ferocious force, helped immensely by Jeff Cronenweth’s dreamlike cinematography, editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall’s brisk pacing, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s haunting score. (Notably, all these collaborators worked on The Social Network as well.)

While Craig has been criticised in the past for his sometimes one-note dour air, that grizzled resignation serves him well as Mikael, a man who’s lost his good name and is juggling two women: a wife and a mistress (Robin Wright in an underwritten role). His quiet authenticity is a crucial element to the film, giving the audience a solid rooting interest as he investigates the Vanger family’s dark past.

The trickier (and showier) role belongs to Mara, who has to contend with the audience’s connection to Noomi Rapace, who authoritatively played Lisbeth in Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 original. Mara doesn’t have the kinetic danger or sex appeal that made Rapace so magnetic, but her Lisbeth is its own creation, an alluring (albeit nearly asexual) outcast who seems hopelessly withdrawn until she’s called upon to assault a rapist or thief, which she does with frightening efficiency.

Those who have seen the 2009 film will notice that Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillian haven’t extensively changed the story … until the movie reaches its last 30 minutes or so. Unfortunately, as with the Swedish original, Fincher’s film is better in its setup of its two characters’ worlds – which ultimately will intersect – than in the final resolution of its mystery plot. The sleek style Fincher brings to the Swedish locales gives his movie a grandeur that’s somewhat undone by the plot’s anticlimactic reveal and overly pulpy showdown between our heroes and the movie’s surprise villain.

But what really keeps Dragon Tattoo from ranking with Fincher’s recent best is that it fails to create much connection between Mikael and Lisbeth. While their eventual romantic relationship is meant to be surprising, the filmmakers don’t really establish much rapport between the leads, which dilutes the emotional payoffs that are meant to happen later in the movie. While Lisbeth was clearly the star of the original Dragon Tattoo, one could argue that Fincher’s elegant tension is front and centre in this remake, which makes for a propulsive, if somewhat chilly, thriller.
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Re: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Tue Dec 13, 2011 9:41 am

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
by Justin Chang
Variety.com



If ever an atmosphere could be described as dank, fetid yet strangely luxurious, it's the chill seeping through every corrosively beautiful frame of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." As classy a film as could be made from Stieg Larsson's sordid page-turner, David Fincher's much-anticipated return to serial-killer territory is a fastidiously grim pulp entertainment that plays like a first-class train ride through progressively bleaker circles of hell. If the brooding intelligence and technical mastery on display at times feel disproportionate to the material, Rooney Mara's riveting take on Lisbeth Salander amply validates what will likely be Fincher's biggest success to date.

The global popularity of Larsson's posthumously published "Millennium" trilogy should help the Sony release overcome a number of commercial hurdles, including a no-bull R rating, scenes of implied sexual assault, and a pacey but unhurried 158-minute running time. That this English-lingo adaptation is arriving not long after a widely seen Swedish version (which grossed $104 million worldwide and an impressive $10 million in the U.S. last year) could hinder its international prospects to some degree, but all in all, the desire to see what Hollywood has wrought from Larsson's literary juggernaut should entice franchise addicts, casual fans and mildly curious holdouts.

What they're in for is a considerably slicker and more sophisticated piece of film craft than the Swedish production or either of its Nordic TV sequels. The film telegraphs its exceptional production values and acrid tone with one of Fincher's typically arresting credits sequences: a rapid-fire frenzy of images variously evoking sex, violence, birth, technology and immolation, set to a furious cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" featuring Karen O. It's presumably a howl of rage from the ravaged psyche of Lisbeth Salander (Mara), the dragon-tattooed Goth girl whose black mohawk, bondage gear and don't-mess-with-me attitude conceal a troubled history as well as one of Sweden's great investigative minds.

Hewing more faithfully to the novel than its predecessor did, Steven Zaillian's smartly pruned screenplay divides its time between Salander, a supremely gifted hacker and professional snoop, and the most recent subject of one of her expert background checks, Stockholm-based magazine journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). Publicly disgraced after losing a high-profile libel case rigged by a corrupt mogul (Ulf Friberg), Blomkvist takes a powder and relocates on a whim to the remote Hedeby Island; there, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), aging patriarch of the wealthy, notoriously fractious Vanger family, has assigned him to find out what happened to Henrik's niece Harriet, who, as depicted in gorgeously hued flashbacks, mysteriously disappeared from the island more than 40 years ago.

Blomkvist eventually unmasks not just a killer but a highly disturbing record of generational sin etched in the Vanger dynasty's DNA and, by extension, the fabric of any Western capitalist society. Without excessively underlining the subtext, the film fully retains Larsson's thinly veiled indictment of corporate skulduggery, anti-Semitism, child abuse and, above all, unspeakably sadistic crimes against women (not for nothing was the novel published in Sweden under the title "Men Who Hate Women"). Fittingly, it's Salander who serves as not only a victim of such violence, but an avenging dark angel.

To that end, editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall crosscut frequently between Blomkvist's investigation and a disturbing parallel narrative in which Salander, a ward of the state, must deal with a predatory legal advocate (Yorick van Wageningen). As with the Swedish pic, the scenes in which this sadist abuses his authority will prove the most difficult to watch, although here the degradation is more implied than seen, shot dimly and from a well-judged distance, with no hint of leering or exploitation beyond the calculated satisfaction of watching Salander turn the tables.

Blomkvist eventually hires Salander as a research assistant, initiating a collaboration that sets off professional and romantic sparks and brings the investigation to a boil. As the two use the latest technology to resurrect old files, photos and clippings, their MacBooks commanding nearly as much screentime as their faces, Fincher charts their progress with unerring focus and agility; instinctively, one detects reverberations of the helmer's past work, notably the razor-sharp techno-savvy of "The Social Network" and the procedural rigor of "Zodiac." Yet where the obsessive quest for knowledge in that 2007 film was predicated on the unknowability of the truth, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is finally let down by a yarn that contents itself with easy solutions and few lingering mysteries. For all the fetishistic attention Fincher and his crew lavish on every gruesome forensic detail, they're unable to transmute Larsson's rudimentary mystery plotting into something more than pop-lit fare.

What remains, then, is the hypnotic presence of Mara, who fearlessly steps into a role made iconic by Swedish thesp Noomi Rapace and proves more than equal to the challenge. Whereas Rapace emphasized the character's pluck and rage, the more petite, vulnerable-looking Mara presents Salander as an emptied-out enigma: Pierced to the nines, her eyebrows dyed a pale skin tone so as to drain any readable emotion from her face, she frequently averts her gaze downward from whomever she may be addressing. It's a gesture at once defensive and defiant, bespeaking years of endured abuse and alienation, yet despite her blank affect, the actress charges every moment with tension and feeling.

Though he's a more compelling Blomkvist than Swedish originator Michael Nyqvist, Craig still makes sure to present the character as a bit of a schlump, tamping down his leading-man charisma to allow Mara to decisively claim the spotlight. The duo's often darkly funny rapport pays off with startling emotion in the final reels, perhaps the most gratifying surprise from a filmmaker whose temperament has generally been as frigid as the film's Swedish landscapes. Casting elsewhere is perfect down to the smallest roles, particularly Robin Wright as Blomkvist's gorgeous editor/lover; Stellan Skarsgard as Harriet's genial brother, Martin; and, despite the excision of much of her material from the novel, Geraldine James as Henrik's inquisitive grandniece, Cecilia. The slight variability of the ensemble's Swedish accents (Craig retains his British enunciation) is a minor but not bothersome flaw.

With the outstanding assistance of d.p. Jeff Cronenweth and production designer Donald Graham Burt, Fincher has rendered a gray, vividly creepy world in keeping with Larsson's cynical vision; spanning glassy modern offices and moneyed estates as well as squalid flats and rustic cottages, it's a place where evil hides in plain sight, and even a well-appointed apartment or an island getaway can turn out to be a sicko's torture chamber. At times carrying echoes of their work on "Social Network," Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score blends dread with driving momentum, establishing a richly unsettling mood with recurring dissonances, eerie wind chimes and pulsating reverb effects.
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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Tue Dec 13, 2011 9:39 am

Here we go... I'm making no attempts to hide spoilers, so Dragon virgins be careful.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Film Review
12:00 AM PST 12/13/2011 by Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter


In the end, there's not much extra even David Fincher can bring to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. This fastidious, technically stellar Hollywood telling of one of the great literary sensations of recent times is highlighted by a bewitching performance from Rooney Mara as the punked-out computer research whiz Lisbeth Salander and remains an absorbing story, as it was on the page and in the 2009 Swedish screen version.

But for all the skill brought to bear on it, the film offers no surprises in the way it's told (aside from a neatly altered ending) and little new juice to what, for some, will be the third go-round with this investigation of the many skeletons in the closet of a powerful Swedish corporate family. Dedicated Fincher fans are likely to find this redo rather more conventional and less disturbing than Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac, all of which end far less reassuringly. Box office returns for this dark Christmas offering will certainly be big, although it will be interesting to gauge if Tattoo is still as major a part of the zeitgeist as it was a year or two ago.

Although Niels Arden Oplev's Swedish adaptation, which ran 152 minutes (180 in an extended version), was perfectly solid, if not particularly stylish, and boasted a fine cast, there was cause to suspect that one of the best American directors now working would bring something extra to this exactingly lurid tale of a disgraced journalist and his kinky accomplice who chart the untold depths of depravity, old Nazi sympathies and serial murder in the vaunted Vanger clan.

From the outset, it's unmistakably a Fincher film; the superlatively sharp visuals, the immaculate design, the innate knack for melding sound and music, the chill and menace evoked from both modern cities and open spaces, the beautiful people marked by deep scars and flaws -- all feel part of his habitual landscape.

The director and his crafty scenarist Steven Zaillian skate through the exposition so fast that, if one weren't already familiar with it, it might be difficult to absorb it all. Very quickly, we learn (or are reminded) that seasoned journo Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has his reputation and bank account wiped out by losing a libel case brought by scammy big bucks investor Wennerstrom; that Mikael has a long-term casual thing going with Erika (Robin Wright), his editor at the now-imperiled maverick journal Millennium and that, with the inducement of a hefty payday and a promise of helping him nail Wennerstrom down the road, he accepts a job from the Vanger family patriarch, Henrik (Christopher Plummer), to privately investigate the disappearance, and presumed murder, of his beloved 16-year-old niece Harriet way back in 1966.

With the feeble cover of writing a biography of the courtly Henrik, Mikael hunkers down in a chilly cottage on Henrik's vast estate in the north of Sweden just after Christmas, surrounded by piles of documents and a quickly filling wall of Post-Its, notes and photos. He also meets assorted family members, most of them suspicious of Mikael and some of them not on speaking terms with one another. The most affable of them seems to be Martin (Stellan Skarsgard), the missing Harriet's brother, who now runs the vast company, which “built modern Sweden” with its industrial initiatives but is now in a downward slide.

Back in Stockholm, Vanger attorney Dirch Frode (Steven Berkoff, now resembling a cross between Anthony Hopkins and Otto Preminger) has used wild girl rogue researcher Lisbeth to check out Mikael, whose computer skills are as impressive as her manners are atrocious. Festooned with multiple piercings, tattoos, a haircut that might pass muster in Borneo and an anti-social attitude that could clear a wide path for her through any crowd, the slightly built Lisbeth remains a ward of the state whose new piggish guardian coerces her into sexual favors, then rough rape, in exchange for the money she's due. Her astonishing revenge, clearly depicted here but not lingered over, is already one for the annals.

The film pushes through all these preliminaries, not with haste, exactly, but in such a compressed way that there is little sense of lullingly enveloping the viewer into the narrative web; it just rushes you into it, like the fast train that shuttles the characters between Stockholm and snowy Hedestad. Lisbeth doesn't arrive there until after the halfway point, 85 minutes in, enlisted by Mikael to make sense of some Biblical references and the unsolved murders of several women many years earlier while he continues to piece together the mystery of Harriet's disappearance.

As readers will know, things get very hairy in the basement of one of the Vanger homes, although Fincher stops short of making this as horrific as it might have been. On the other hand, there is the fresh pleasure of a key interlude from the book that the Swedish film omitted, that of Lisbeth's eventful trip to Switzerland in disguise, and the new resolution of the Harriet story is clever and plausible enough.

Often unkempt and largely stripped of the political core with which Larsson equipped him, Mikael is a fractionally less interesting character here than in the previous film, and Craig, while entirely watchable, doesn't reveal much that's going on inside him beyond what's already called for on the surface. His mild Swedish inflections in early scenes soon give way to a straight English accent, even as the speech of others remains consistent in a mid-North Sea sort of way. Craig and Wright play well together, sparking the wish they shared more scenes.

So it's Mara's movie for the taking, and she snatches it up in dramatic fashion. Unforgettable in the opening scene of The Social Network last year, she remained untested in a demanding role, but Fincher's belief in her is borne out in a dominating performance of submerged rage, confidence and defiance. Baring all in the several sex scenes, both coerced and consensual, she goes all the way in a performance that compares favorably to that of Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version and its two sequels. She comes across here as the real deal.

In the astutely selected cast of largely British and Scandinavian actors, Skarsgard crucially gives Martin a sociable surface, Plummer exudes the required charm as the cultivated gent in charge, Yorick van Wageningen has just the right piggish bulk for the loathsome rapist, Joely Richardson shines as a daughter long estranged from her unsavory relatives and Berkoff handles legal and expository details with aplomb. It almost goes without saying that all the craft contributions, visual and aural, are exemplary.

There was never any question that Fincher was the perfect director for this job; the material is right down the middle of the plate for him. But in his best and most unnerving films, there's the sense of him pushing deeper, darker and beyond where most filmmakers go, into the unknown, areas you enter at your own risk. As the only intrigue and unanswered questions here involve Lisbeth herself, Dragon Tattoo is too neatly wrapped up, too fastidious to get under your skin and stay there.
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