Posted on 1/28/12 09:29 PM
David Fincher's most recent submission to the ongoing debate on which of his works will be his magnum opus, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," opens with a marvelously intense and surreal, yet meticulously crafted, nightmare sequence that's extracted from the mind of the eponymous Girl, Lisbeth Salander. This opening sequence embodies both the darkness and vulnerability within her soul as well as her self-identity, while presenting the key experiences of her life, which range from events in her childhood to experiences that succeed the events of the film, in the form of symbolism.
Rooney Mara's performance as Lisbeth Salander, possibly the 21st century's most iconic original character, is gloriously subtle and perfectly in-tune with the writing of her screenwriter, Steve Zaillian, and her creator, the late Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson. Her portrayal of an emotionally stunted, direct and honest, brutal, visually passionless yet energetic, misanthropic yet sincerely caring and immensely clever enigma is phenomenal and inarguably one of the best performances of the year. Her cold stare says so much and holds everyone at bay, save the very few that have proved their worth to her. A smile on her face carries far more emotional weight than any grand romantic gesture in an insipid romantic comedy could dream of having.
On the back of my copy of, "The Girl Who Played with Fire," the follow-up to the novel that this film adapted to the screen, a quote from the LA Times claimed that Larsson had "bottled lightning." If Larsson had bottled lightning with his novels' intensity, than Fincher has harnessed the fury of a god, sealed it within a rusty and jagged tin can and allowed it to rumble and slowly boil for more than two hours before completely bursting. This razor-sharp tension is enhanced by an excellent sense of pacing, the bleak atmosphere, the skills of the cast, Fincher's characteristically great direction and what are possibly some of the best scenes David Fincher has ever put to the screen, fitting alongside the, "You have the minimal amount of my attention," scene in "The Social Network," among others.
The score that accompanies Fincher's adaptation, which was produced by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Atticus Ross, the former having earned an Academy Award for the score of Fincher's previous masterpiece, "The Social Network," is positively riveting as it crawls under the viewers' skin and pulsates in the deepest recesses of their mind. From the blaring "Immigrant Song" that plays over the opening sequence to deceptively calm instrumental pieces, Reznor and Ross have crafted their own complementary masterwork for Fincher's.
One of the parallel plotlines of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" centers on Lisbeth as she comes into conflict with the cruel-natured man that has been appointed as her legal guardian after his precedent, whose condition she actually cared about, suffered from a stroke, and generally struggles with the state's treatment of her. The other focuses on Mikael Blomkvist as portrayed by Daniel Craig, an idealistic journalist that seeks to regain his credibility after a libel conviction by aiding Christopher Plummer's retired entrepreneur Henrik Vanger in the solving of the forty year-old murder of Vanger's niece, Harriet. Eventually, the two plotlines converge as Blomkvist hires Lisbeth to utilize her technological skills in aiding him with his research into the circumstances connected to Harriet's murder.
The investigation delves into the complexities of Harriet's troubled life and the Vanger family, whose members resent one another and isolate themselves from each other and the outside world alike on an island north of the Scandinavian coast. It gradually reveals itself to connect back to a primary theme of the story, which is reflected in the source material's original title, "Men Who Hate Women," and the impact that they have on society. Ultimately, Larsson's Millennium series was an exposť of the startling atmosphere that Swedish women endure. This is clearly addressed by the chilling statistics that accompany each of the first novel's parts, such as, "92 percent of women in Sweden that have been subjected to sexual assault have not reported the most violent incident to the police," and, "forty-six percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man.
In what has been a frankly disappointing year for film, it is reassuring that David Fincher rose to the challenge of being the second to translate one of the finest thrillers of the last decade to the screen, surpassing the first adaptation as well as the other high-quality drama films of the year, such as Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" and Johnathan Levine's "50/50." The flaws that have been inherited by the source material should not in any way be a deterrent to anyone that is seeking out a great film.
99/100 or 4/4 Stars