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 David Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: David Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo   Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:16 am

Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson had written 3 novels for his own pleasure, the subject of the first book was partially inspired by a gang rape on a teenage girl he had witnessed when he was 15, Larsson never forgave himself for not trying to help the girl, whose name happened to be Lisbeth. Tragically, Larsson died of a heart attack on November 9th 2004, but his 3 manuscripts were published. The first one published in 2005, known in Swedish as Män som hatar kvinnor, (Men Who Hate Women), which became known in English speaking countries as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It became a international literary sensation, and it was already adaptated into a film in 2009 by director Niels Arden Oplev, starring Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. The film became an instant success internationally, and there was an extended version shown on Swedish TV as well. But, Hollywood got wind of it's success, and Columbia Pictures decided to remake the books into English. That might sound pointless given the success of the Swedish films, but they got in David Fincher to do the English language remake, a master of dark murder mysteries, (Se7en (1995) and Zodiac (2007)). Fincher's take on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a different breed to the Swedish original, it's got a black wit running throughout, it's lurid, voyeuristic and brutal, and it bloody works. This is the David Fincher we know and love.

It begins in Stockholm in December 2002, when journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), has just lost a libel case against crooked businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström (Ulf Friberg), and Blomkvist's reputation is in tatters, and resigns from Millennium magazine, which he runs with coworker and lover Erika Berger (Robin Wright). Meanwhile, goth computer researcher/hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) has done a background check on Blomkvist for her employers Milton Security, who pass their information onto lawyer Dirche Frode (Steven Berkoff) for his client Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), ex-CEO of Vanger Industries. Vanger wants Blomkvist to investigate a murder that has been taunting Vanger for nearly 40 years, his neice Harriet went missing one day in September 1966, and Henrik is convinced someone in his family murdered Harriet. Blomkvist agrees to investigate, in return, Vanger will have Wennerström brought to justice, and Vanger, with his nephew Martin Vanger (Stellan Skarsgård) help Millennium in return. Meanwhile, Lisbeth's guardian Holger Palmgren (Bengt C.W. Carlsson) has a stroke, leaving nasty lawyer Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen) to care for her, and after Lisbeth's computer is broken in an attack, she needs money for a new one, which Bjurman agrees to, if she performs fellatio on him. She goes to film him later for evidence, only for Bjurman to anally rape her, she punishes him later on, blackmailing him into giving her money and letting her be. Back at the Vanger residence, Blomkvist is struggling and needs a research assistant to help him, and he gets Lisbeth. The family is not what it seems at all, and to say they're disfunctional is a big understatement.

No matter what happens, this will always be compared to the Swedish original, and Fincher had a big job on his hands, especially when making it so soon after the Swedish version had come out. But, it's perfect material for him, with Se7en, he'd turned the serial killer genre inside out and upside down, and he did it again with Zodiac, only we never knew who the serial killer was in the latter, and it's more about obsession. It's that theme of obsession that drives Henrik Vanger in this film, he just wants closure. It's a dark film that's cold but amazing to look at, from the sets with furniture by IKEA in nearly every scene, to the eerie, haunting music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to the precise, focused cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth, (who worked with Fincher on Fight Club (1999) and The Social Network (2010)). What makes this stand out from the Swedish original, is that Fincher has $100 million to work with, whereas the Swedish one was made for $13 million. Fincher has more scope to work with, and could afford a bigger cast, plus the film had one hell of a nihilistic promotional campaign to boot, with it's first trailer back in May promising "The Feel Bad Film Of Christmas", Fincher was right about that, and even the ending which had hope, sets it up for a sequel but is a bit of a downer.

It's a very good murder mystery, and it stays fairly close to the book, even if it does change a few things, Blomkvist never goes to prison like in the book, and unlike the Swedish film, it has the cat in this version, and the poor thing meets a sticky end, (be warned), and the sojourn to Australia at the end of the book is moved to London, (though it works). But, Fincher gets right into it with it's nightmarish title sequence, which looks like a Bond title sequence from hell, a black fantasia of USB ports, melting skin, fire and hornets. :Wink: All done to that excellently heavy cover of Led Zeppelin's The Immigrant Song, done by Trent Reznor with Karen O's vocals giving the classic song new life. In fact, Enya's Orinoco Flow is played in the film, and it'll never be heard in the same way ever again, not after the scene it's used in. It's a Hollywood epic set in Sweden, and it's faithful in all the right places, although Columbia wanted to relocate it to America, with locations such as Seattle, Denver, Chicago and Minneapolis planned, but the original producers said no. This is a Sweden where everyone speaks English, but it works, non of the books original impact is lost in Fincher's version.

The cast are all excellent, Daniel Craig is busy at the moment, as well as being Bond, he's gone from cowboy to posh baddie to a disgraced journalist. He's an ideal choice for the part of Mikael Blomkvist, unshaven, tired, bleary eyed as he tries to solve this murder, and vulnerable in a nasty climax. But, the real star of the show is Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, who plays Salander with a quiet exterior, but inside she's all rage, and when she gets revenge on Nils Bjurman, she's a woman in control, she shows her true colours, do not get on her bad side, she will literally scar you for life and more, and she manages to hold her own against Craig, and there's a good, weird chemistry between the two. Christopher Plummer manages to steal nearly every scene he's in, with a friendly performance as possibly the only decent member of the Vanger family, a tormented man who just wants peace. Stellan Skarsgård is always good in films, and here he manages to put in another great performance, and the cast is nicely rounded out by Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson and not to mention Yorick van Wageningen as the loathsome Bjurman.





It's refreshing to see a film make for grown-ups in times like these, especially a big budget one. Fincher hopes to adapt the other two books, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest into films next, depending on the success of this film. It's good to see this side to Fincher again after dabbling in romantic fantasy (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and satirical biopic drama (The Social Network). This is an engaging, uncomfortable and gripping. It's a film that wants to make it's audience squirm in discomfort, it wants to make them feel unclean when they watch it. But, Fincher's visual eye is second to non, and some of the camerawork and precision in this film echo what Kubrick would have done. It might not be Oscar worthy, but it's certainly an excuse to go to the cinema. You might not get another film like this for a while, you'll want to see more from Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander after seeing this film, it might not be a film for everyone, but the fact that Hollywood allowed something as provocative and dark to be made is, in itself, stunning enough. This is Fincher firing on all cylinders, and he's pulling no punches and not compromising either.
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