Rooney Mara shows that she can, at the tender age of 26, act with the very best in this year’s “feel bad movie of the Christmas season” - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Her performance as Lisbeth Salander, ultra-intense goth computer hacker extraordinaire, is simply electrifying! Her powerful gaze lights up the screen and her entrance into each scene has everyone in the film, as well as the audience, on pins and needles, anxiously awaiting her next move. She’s a live-wire. Salander’s infamous talents for obtaining data (they may or may not be completely legal) attract journalist Mikael Blomkvist, played with a steely intensity by Daniel Craig, who has taken a job to find a murderer amidst a family who all hate each other. What better to do when you’ve been sued for libel and lost your entire life’s savings? These are the kind of people that hire you.
The plot plays out like an ordinary mystery, in which the main character searches loads of archived data and interviews loads of interesting characters, who all may or may not have motive to kill one of their own, and who all may or may not seem creepy enough to commit murder. It’s a closed-room murder, like a classic Christie novel. All of the suspects live on an isolated island. So, little by little, Blomkvist and Salander begin to realize that they have more than likely already met the murderer, and thatthe killer more than likely knows how close they are to their identity. The killer doesn’t like this.
But wait! Haven’t we seen this before? Like, two years ago? Remember, it was that Swedish movie with the subtitles that you stopped watching but then told everyone that you had seen it because you realized what a cultural-phenomenon it was becoming and you didn’t want to be left out of the water cooler conversation? Yeah, that one. Well, here’s your chance to redeem yourself, because this one is not only in English, but is essentially the exact same movie.
Which begs the question, “Why?” Why would they remake a movie that just came out? For money? Perhaps. To make it more accessible to the subtitle-fearing masses? Most likely. Thankfully, it’s not a Gus Van Sant-esque remake. David Fincher does bring his wonderfully soft look to such hard subject matter, and all of the outstanding camera work from The Social Network is used here to great effect. Also from that film are Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who bring another fantastically effective and original score to the table. Technically, the film is airtight and beautiful to look at.
From a storytelling point though, it seems to drag, although it isn’t much longer than the original film. I don’t know what it was, or what could have been done differently, most everything seemed important. But I just don’t remember the original feeling solong.
Also, Craig could have been more vulnerable in his performance, less James Bond. But he certainly seemed to have a heart somewhere in there. His adopting of a cat was a nice touch that I didn’t remember from the original. As for Mara’s interpretation of Salander, I found it to be very well revealed and thought out. She wasn’t quite as vulnerable as Noomi Rapace was, but she made up for it with an increased, fiery intensity. A true measure of her diverse skills is to compare her Salander with her work in The Social Network. Wow. I sure hope Oscar is listening.
This will certainly be the most graphic film you see in theatres for the rest of the year, I can promise you that. I warned you. But none of it is done to be exploitative, but simply frank about the subject matter.
A sleeker, sharper vision of Stieg Larsson’s tale is this film, but it is colder in its emotions, and ends up feeling less complete and involving than its predecessor. Nonetheless, Fincher still delivers a knock-out punch for the Christmas season, with an incredible, out-of-this-world opening credit sequence and enough fiery performances to melt the snow off of anything.
Rated R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language.
Running Time: 158 Minutes.
Released in theatres: December 20th, 2011.