It has been more than seven months since the release of that awe-inspiring teaser for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
, which drove me a little insane. I finally saw it this week, and my waiting has been worth it!
The story revolves around two characters- a disgraced investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist, and a brilliant yet disturbed computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, and their unlikely partnership that is formed to catch a killer of women. Blomkvist is employed by Henrik Vanger, a retired industrialist, to investigate a case that has ailed him for forty years- the disappearance and apparent murder of his niece Harriet. When he unearths some clues, Blomkvist takes the aide of Lisbeth, who had done the background search on him originally. Together they solve the mystery, which takes the most unexpected turns and changes their lives forever.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
is the based on the first book of Stieg Larsson's best selling Millennium
trilogy of the same name. Contrary to the popular belief, it is an adaptation of the book and not the remake of the Swedish adaptation, which I saw immediately after the teaser was released all those months ago. As almost everyone has read the book or seen the Swedish version or both, I will not give more details. For those who haven't, well I just did you a favour and you will be deeply ingratiated to me forever. I personally feel it's an average book with a few high points and a lot of unnecessary parts. Here is where Fincher's version triumphs because it trims all those uneven edges and gives us a mind-blowing thriller, or as I like to call it- a true Fincher-thriller (Fincher Fangirls Unite!).
As soon as those incredible opening credits start rolling, we know we are in for a bumpy, dark, violent, and magnificent ride. Set almost entirely in cold and chilly Sweden, the whole film has a very grey look that emanates the iciness of the settings across the screen to us, and just gets under our skin. That is only just the beginning because the film has some truly cringe-worthy moments, especially the infamous rape scene. What is really brilliant though is how instead of focusing on the actual violence, it chooses to show shots of the people who are causing it or to whom it is being caused. It makes it all the more disturbing and uncomfortable, and we just know how wrong it all is.
In terms of the cast, the film is really driven by the two leads- Daniel Craig as Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. Many people have not appreciated Craig as much, but I think he is such an improvement from Michael Nyqvist who played the character in the Swedish version. In the first half, when both of them haven't met yet and their characters are being set-up for us, Craig's Blomkvist is someone who is normal and rational and quite charming. He isn't necessarily James Bond (hehe), but we see how he reacts to other people- strangers and family, and even a cat, and we understand why someone like Lisbeth is able to like and trust him. I think he is the perfect yin to her distorted yang. Of course, the film's focal point is Lisbeth and Mara's eerily excellent, and as of two days ago, Oscar-nominated portrayal of her. People are rabid fans of Noomi Rapace's Lisbeth, and she is quite good and well badass-er. I think Mara's Lisbeth is quirkier, but also more dangerous. She is kind of funny; though she speaks a little, I actually laughed at some of things she said, and that bloody awesome t-shirt she is wearing when she first meets Blomkvist. She also has a sensitive side, as deeply buried as it is. But at the same time, she has this terrifying rage, which when it comes out, is so much more scarier. I mean, in spite of Mara's miraculous transformation into the tattooed, pierced, shaved and bleached Lisbeth, she still looked beautiful, but every time this side of her came out, I could only think of the phrase, "face of death". So yes, Mara's Lisbeth was more beautiful, funny and sensitive, and also way more deadlier and deranged. "Nod.
Both of them had great chemistry together. I really liked the way we are introduced to both characters and the world of difference between them, and how they are brought together. Among the other cast members, I liked that Erika Berger had a more prime role in this adaptation and Robin Wright was just the person for her. Christopher Plummer was Henrik, and again he was very convincing in his slightly amused and aloof old man role. Stellan Skarsgård played Martin Vanger, and he was very good too. Lastly Yorick van Wageningen played Nils Bjurman, Lisbeth's twisted and sexually deviant guardian. He was really evil and disgusting. I liked how his bulging ponch was always in focus because we are supposed to find him revolting.
Steve Zaillian adapted the book into an excellent screenplay, and as I said above, removed many of the unnecessary details. I think the film was more faithful to the essence of the book, than maybe even the book itself. The cinematography is harrowing and quite deservedly nominated for an Oscar. The incredible score by last year's winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, was snubbed by the Oscars but it just does wonders for the mood of this modern thriller. That Immigrant Song
cover by Karen O is the cherry on the cake. As always, the editing is immaculate, which is something one expects from a Fincher film. It's all in the pacing, and that is what keeps one glued to such a film. One of my favourite scenes is when she gets robbed in the train station, and how she fights back. It's cool and then sound is muffled down and everything just happens.
Lastly, and most importantly, comes David Fincher and his expert film-making skills. I remember how over-the-moon I was when this film was announced, because none can do a modern thriller like him. Se7en
is easily one of the best thrillers from the last two decades, and Zodiac
too is quite superb. But not only those, other films of his like Fight Club
and The Social Network
also come to mind because of his trend to portray unconventional, rebellious, disturbed and quite brilliant characters in his films. Lisbeth could have easily been his brain-child, and it only seemed natural that he will do justice to her. The film has all of his trademark elements in it- the exact investigation, the painful violence, the very dark humour (that Enya song in the end and again that aaawweeesssoommmeee t-shirt), the unforgettable sequences, even a few epic lines- "If you touch me, I'll more than alarm you.
" I already spoke about the look and the pacing, which are also quintessentially Fincher. Even with these, the best part of the film for me is what Fincher made Mara do. There were many shots of the back of her head, which is a clever tactic to make us, for lack of a better word, identify with her more. She is the focus, the epicenter, and it's her actions and feelings that we have to understand and we do, somewhat. Her outbursts, her lack of emotion and then the unexpected sliver of sensitivity- everything Lisbeth is expected to be and more, he captures it all. He made her a crazed genius, as maybe he is one himself. And for this, I cannot thank him enough (Fincher Fangirls Unite! x 2).
A perfect thriller, which has been both rewarded and snubbed by the awards folks, though we don't really care, do we? I had only one problem with the film- it ended too soon, though it was quite the perfect ending. Anyhow there are two more books in the series, and I think the producers will go ahead with the adaptations. Though this film feels like perfection on its own, we want Mara as Lisbeth to fill us up with fear and awe again, we want that excellent chemistry between Mara and Craig to continue, and we want Fincher back at what he does best. Here's hoping to see more adventures of the girl with the dragon tattoo.