December 14, 2011 12:53pm EST
Let’s put the cards on the table: I have not read Steig Larsson’s best-selling “Millennium Trilogy” and therefore cannot comment on whether or not Columbia Pictures’ big-budget (American) adaptation of its first novel is a spot-on transfer of the shocking story or if Rooney Mara has lived up to the punk-goth-genius of an anti-heroine he created. This review is about director David Fincher’s craft and the dream cast he has assembled to make The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo one of the most brutal and engrossing films of 2011.
Right from lustrous sexy title sequence evoking torturous S&M imagery to the ultra-cool Karen O/Trent Reznor rendition of Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” the Oscar-nominated filmmaker plunges his audience into a very specific experience. This is not to say that the story itself is notably inventive; Dragon Tattoo is more or less a standard serial killer thriller wherein a pair of investigators attempts to solve a decades-old murder that has ties to other gruesome mysteries and a wealthy Swedish family. It’s the sinister atmosphere and tone he cultivates using color music and lighting that makes this tale so unique and highly watchable in spite of the terrible events that occur throughout.
Perhaps most compelling though is its mixed bag of characters from different walks of life including Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) a recently disgraced financial journalist in need of an assignment Martin Vanger (Stellan Skarsgard) a yuppie-ish corporate tycoon charged with running the family business started by his uncle Henrik (Christopher Plummer) and Lisbeth Salander (Mara) the alpha-outsider and titular character of this eerie epic. All are emotionally scarred and the actors charged with portraying them go the darkest corners of their own souls to make them their own. Mara in particular must be praised for her ghoulish and extreme embodiment of Salander who suffers physical and emotional torment unlike anything we’ve seen in cinema this year. This more than her scene-stealing presence in Fincher’s The Social Network is no doubt her star-making turn; expect to see her name on a marquee soon. Though she and Craig at times struggle with the Swedish diction (the latter’s native British accent slips through more times than I can count) they more than make up for it with their physical personifications facial expressions etc. Yet it’s Skarsgard who is most impressive as the younger Vanger (he’s of Swedish descent) and delivers a stunning and chilling performance that will rival Mara’s in defining this film in years to come.
Still this is a Fincher film through and through and I cannot think of source material better suited for the maker of Se7en and Zodiac than this disturbing chronicle. Visually he’s given the opportunity to create damp decaying interiors familiar to fans of his work but contrasts them with beautifully filmed exteriors including some terrifying whiteout conditions that are sure to lower your body temperature. In terms of form he and editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall effectively lay out dual character arcs (that of Salander and Blomkvist) that run parallel but connect in uncanny ways until their eventual convergence resulting in a highly literary feel. Both Baxter and Wall won Oscars for cutting The Social Network and I’m afraid that their penchant for quick transitions between shots has a decreasing effect on the terror; for a film that so closely treads the line between horror-thriller I felt that letting certain shots play out a bit longer could’ve had more dreadful results.
Still in no way I am saying that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn’t come with its share of nail-biting suspense. Fincher takes tense situations to the next level using unconventional camera angles and Reznor’s unnerving score making many sequences in the movie hard to watch. It’s a tiring but entertaining task; one that is a pleasure and pain to endure but the auteur’s masterful methods are quite magical even when being used to tell a story as menacing as this one.
There’s nothing else playing at the multiplex this season that’s quite like it and should you choose to view it you’ll carry its shocks with you for days after.
After months of scouring the planet for the right actress to portray Lisbeth Salander, the hacker-heroine of Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millennium Trilogy, Sony Pictures Entertainment and director David Fincher have chosen Rooney Mara (A Nightmare On Elm Street) to take on the role in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The film has had everyone from Carey Mulligan to Natalie Portman screen testing (We called her the front-runner when she was rumored for the role on July 30th).
The studio announced today that the 24-year-old sister of Kate Mara (and granddaughter of NY Giants founder Tim Mara) will work alongside Daniel Craig, Stellan Skarsgaard and Robin Wright in the English-language adaptation of the series that follows Salander and Craig's Mikael Blomkvist on a quest to unravel a decades-long murder mystery. The race for the role has been one of the most competitive in recent memory for young actresses.
Mara just finished working on Fincher's The Social Network and was also rumored to have screen-tested for a role in Sony's Spider-Man reboot (one would assume that she was reading for Mary Jane Watson), but it looks like she'll be heading to Sweden to film the first entry into what the studio plans to be a trilogy. Check out the official press release from Sony Pictures Entertainment below:
(Culver City, August 16, 2010) -- Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara have been cast in the lead roles of Columbia Pictures’ three-picture adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s literary blockbuster The Millennium Trilogy under the direction of David Fincher. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – the first film of the series, which also includes The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – begins shooting next month in Sweden. The screenplay is written by Steve Zaillian and the film is being produced by Scott Rudin, Cean Chaffin, Ole Sondberg and Søren Stærmose. Mikael Wallen and Anni Fernandez are executive producers. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is set for worldwide release December 21, 2011.
The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson has been published in 44 countries and has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide thus far. In the U.S. alone, the series has sold over 10 million copies, and the sales were recently calculated at the remarkable rate of one book per second. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has broken sales records in virtually every country in which it has been published. It has sold over 5 million copies in the U.S. and has out-sold any other e-book in that rapidly expanding market. A literary phenomenon, all three books currently sit atop the New York Times Best Seller lists. In describing the scale of Larsson’s achievement, The Economist said: “Stieg Larsson’s vivid characters, the depth of the detail across the three books, the powerfully imaginative plot, and the sheer verve of the writing make the trilogy a masterpiece of its genre.” Michiko Kakutani, of The New York Times, described the Lisbeth character: “Lisbeth Salander, Stieg Larsson’s fierce pixie of a heroine, is one of the most original characters in a thriller to come along in a while – a gamin, Audrey Hepburn look-alike but with tattoos and piercings, the take-no-prisoners attitude of Lara Croft and the cool, unsentimental intellect of Mr. Spock. She is the vulnerable victim turned vigilante; a willfully antisocial girl . . . who has proved herself to be as incandescently proficient as any video game warrior.” The three novels have all become #1 worldwide bestsellers, an achievement unrivaled in trade book publishing.
Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment