Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Director David Fincher’s adaptation of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is a film that is saturated with the man’s prior works. It has the shock value of SE7EN and FIGHT CLUB, the whodunit-ness of ZODIAC, and the subtle character drama of THE SOCIAL NETWORK. It is a film that he couldn’t make until this stage in his career, when all that he has learned and accomplished in the past finally pays off in a magnificent, triumphant way.

Mikael (Daniel Craig) is a disgraced magazine journalist who gets into legal and financial trouble after a story he writes with his editor (Robin Wright) is proven in court to be false. Looking for some redemption, he accepts an offer from Henrik (Christopher Plummer), the head of a rich family who lives on their own private island to solve the 40-year old mystery of a missing niece. Mikael enlists the help of Lisbeth (Rooney Mara), a freelance private investigator with a photographic memory and remarkable deductive reasoning skills.

To say much more about the plot of TATTOO would take up a lot of time and space, for the film is a dense story with several layers of mystery. Mikael and Lisbeth’s digging into the family history is a slow and prodding watch, but Fincher manages to keep things energetic and intriguing throughout; there is somehow always a foreboding feeling going on. The atmosphere that Fincher creates (thanks in part to Trent Reznor’s incredible score) hangs over everything so heavily you just may catch yourself looking over your shoulder while viewing.

TATTOO is not only successful in building a creepy and suspenseful mystery, but also in creating a great character drama in Mikael and Lisbeth’s stories. The two run parallel to each other for most of the film, but when they do finally meet, TATTOO really hits its groove. Mikael is an accomplished writer and gentleman who just wants to get something right. Lisbeth is a heavily tattooed, bisexual, chain-smoking punk-rock Goth girl whose crazy hair changes to suit her mood. She is a tragic character who has been shit upon her entire life and is desperate to find any sort of kindness and good in the world, which she does in the form of Mikael. The two cannot be more different on the surface, and more alike underneath.

Lisbeth owns the film; so much so that things seem to suffer whenever she is not in the frame. She is a super-sleuth, and very much a modern-day superhero. Her powers are her photographic memory, computer hacking-skills and modern gadgetry, and she’s not afraid to be bold when the situation gets deadly. TATTOO certainly sets a mighty stage for further Lisbeth adventures if they decide to forge ahead with the remaining two novels; she is a tremendous character.

Rooney Mara absolutely vanishes inside Lisbeth; it’s difficult to believe that this was the same cute girl from Fincher’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK. She nails the Swedish accent, along with the cold and detached look and feel that sells the character. She also convincingly pulls off the horror her character has to endure, when Lisbeth must go through what no woman should ever have to go through. Mara nearly upstages Daniel Craig, who is solid if not just a tad wooden.

The finale takes a long time to come around, as there are a ton of different storylines to wrap up. It does wrap up good and tight, and leaves a bit of an emotional cliffhanger that makes us want more. TATTOO is packed tight with a lot of story and character and is certainly not for the simple-minded, but those looking for the work of a refined and mature filmmaker with a talent for gripping storylines need not look further.


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