If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Let's just get this out of the way right now, the latest remake or readaptation (take your pick) of The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is better than the swedish version. David Fincher, one of my favorite directors ever, was god damn perfect for this as anyone who is familiar with the source material would have guessed. Everything that I love about his films is here from the subtle touchs of darkness in the characters to the chilling atmosphere. This is one of the best movies I've seen this year and if the oscars don't nominate this for Best Picture and Best Actress, than those old cynical bastards can get a dildo kicked up thier asses.
This version of The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is closer to the novel in terms of tone and atmosphere. The story follows two characters, struggling magazine journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and bisexual punk hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Blomkvist's finds a story about a girl who's been missing for 40 years in a large family consisting of Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, nazis, and generally fucked-up people. Speaking of fucked-up people, Lisbeth has several scars from her past and is considered anti-social and a little bit crazy by most anyone who knows her. And she not only agrees, but she is proud of how crazy she is almost to the point where you accept how damaged she is. She is also very smart and one of the best hackers around, so Blomkvist's finds her to help catch the killer. Their investigation gets the attention of some sinister people who don't like them having their nose up their business.
Fincher is going back to his roots here, yet a lot of elements from his later films are in here too. To me, this film has everything that I love about him. Right from the very beginning with the beautiful twisted opening credits set to the Immigrant Song cover you heard in the trailer, this is his film. You're probably already tired of me riding his dick, so I'll move on to why I love this movie and why he did such a great job on it. The thing is, I love depressing shit. There's too many people out there who are either dumb or emotional cowards and avoid all things that aren't perfectly happy. Well, guess what bitches, life is not like that; people are fucked up. Almost everything in this film; the slimy characters, the cold Swedish setting, and the forboding cinematography, has a certain dark subtlety to it that gives you the chills. And yet, the performances and the direction wrap you into the story so well that you don't feel weighed down by how dark it is. If the book caught on with american readers, than I have no doubt that general moviegoers will eat this up as well. But when they say that this is The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas, they live up to the slogan. This is not a movie you go see at Christmas with your grandparents and little cousins, but that's a good thing to me.
The biggest surprise here is Rooney Mara, who I was very skeptical of when I first heard that she had been cast for this role. I mean the only major role that she had been in previously was the godawful Nightmare on Elm Street remake that I like to pretend doesn't exist and now she's playing this dangerously complex, almost iconic character. Yet I prefered her to Noomi Rapace from the swedish films. While Rapace was more mysterious in the foreign versions, Mara is much more realized as a damaged individual hiding a fragile conscious underneath a badass attitude and overdone punk attire. I pray to god that people don't feel inspired by this film to dress up like Lisbeth as a world filled with pierced, tattoed, leather wearing hipsters is my worst nightmare. But it works perfect with Mara, whose androgynous yet confident performance in simply magnetic. She couldn't have been more fitting for David Fincher, a man who can make even the craziest characters seem relatable. In this case, you like her because most all of the other characters, especially the Vanger family that she is investigating, are so detestable because of the fucked-up traits that they hide that you have respect for her that she is a proud of them.
I only have one complaint that keeps me from giving this a Better than Sex and it's also a problem that I had with the swedish version, the film has moments that drag. Most of these moments occur during the beginning of the film and the end of the film as you can feel it's long length in certain parts. Yet it's hard to get too mad at it for this as The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is so well edited that every scene feels important. It's proof that there is nothing wrong with thinking grand in terms of storytelling if you have what it takes to pull it off and screenwriter Steve Zaillian and Fincher do it with ease. Nothing about this film feels lazy or uninspired at all, everything is done professionally and exceptionally. The cinematography is gorgeous throughout; you can feel just how cold it is in snowy sweden. The camera often focuses on small objects that seem meaningless and yet the give you chills just from the way they are shot. This is a film rich in subtlety, something that is severly lacking in cinema as of recent. The subtle ques are done well enough that I imagine most people will catch on to them, but if they don't it's still a solid film that is so engrossing during the second act that all of it's flaws should be forgiven by audiences who aren't cynical critics like myself.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a fucking great piece of work and one of my personal best films of the year. I hope to god that this finds an audience over such a crowded season in a struggling box office because I want to see more films like this without having to drive to my not-so-local arthouse theatre. This is a piece of art, proof that you don't need any CGI or a universe where everything is made to look pretty to create it in the field of cinema. Art can be made from the most bleak and depressing things that come from our awful world. I have seen much more depressing films in my life and I'm likely selling this to be more dark than it really is, but it seems strange that a major Hollywood movie released during a season that many associate with joy (and that even markets itself as such) would have such a pessimestic view of humanity. Just like it's titular character, it's proud of it's views no matter how dreary they may be. It's a film with balls, and for that I love it.
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