Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--Movie

Photo: Rooney Mara, from her Wikipedia page.  She and Lisbeth Salander look nothing alike.  I mean that in a positive way, for both.

The blog for the book will come soon.  Just finished it.

But first the movie.

The movie was a must-see on many levels: the genre of the movie and book (as you should know by now, I dig the murder/mystery thing); the positive hype of both; and, perhaps most importantly, David Fincher, the director.

First, a word about him.  Impressive credits, especially Zodiac.  I know he directed Se7en, a good movie but very overrated.  The Social Network was a great film, about technology that has undoubtedly changed many lives (except mine; still don't have a Facebook account)--but, still, a movie about a nerdy, ingenious, socially inept guy, who may or may not have stolen the idea, the rights, and who knows what else.  Not my cup of tea for a subject, but an admittedly great film.  I believe Zodiac and now this movie will push him into the upper-echelon of movie buffs (Fincher's been there for the pros for some time now).  I like Fincher's directing style and the intensity of his films: The Social Network was intense for its genre.  The others are just...intense.  Fight Club, for instance.  (Good, not great.)  Haven't seen Benjamin Button or Panic Room.  They're on my list of things to do.

I also wanted to see this because Steven Zaillian wrote it.  He penned the 'plays for Schindler's List (one of the all-time great screenplays) and for Gangs of New York, also a great screenplay (Daniel Day-Lewis should've won the Oscar for that one).  Of course, he also wrote American Gangster, which was okay, but I'll pass, and Hannibal, which was just bad.  But I'm a return customer for Schindler and Gangs.

Daniel Craig is always good, and it's good to see him do something well besides James Bond.  (Speaking of which, it's about time for another, yes?)  He's a good actor who has not, and will not, get the credit he deserves.  Women swoon over him.  While he's essentially a non-violent Bond in this film, he still played it well.  He's got the Bond charm and charisma going, but he still had other facets going on that went over well.  (Those shots where he's learning something, and the camera stays on his thoughtful and learning face--well, rumor has it that he was simply counting to ten all that time.  He says he counts to ten when he's told he needs to show understanding and learning on film.)

But the cream of the crop here was Rooney Mara, as Lisbeth Salander.  According to Wikipedia, she beat out Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson for the role.  I like the first and am lukewarm by the latter, and they're both too hyped these days.  Mara came out of nowhere.  She played bit parts in several TV shows, a major part in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake (all good actors have to start with a bad horror film, apparently.  See Johnny Depp, Renee Zellweger and too many others to mention), and a small role in Fincher's Social Network.  (Both say that her part in his most recent film did not help her to get The Girl.)

Her character on film is even more realistic than the one on paper I have just finished reading.  That never happens, at least for me.  Without going into much detail, she absolutely nailed this role.  One of the things she did in the film (and possibly this is Fincher's and Zaillian's doing as well) that Salander didn't do in the book was to stay consistent with her mono-syllabic answers and otherwise clipped speech patterns--even to those she liked or cared for.  Frankly, she spoke too often (in spurts) in the book; I have known people (exactly) like Lisbeth Salander, and you'll have to take my word that such folks do not normally converse.  They staccato you, or they rant at you, but they don't converse.  Mara didn't in the movie, either.

In my life, I have seen a Lisbeth Salander many times.  I've seen the anorexia, the internal fury, the speech patterns, the behavior, the anger in the eyes, the massive insecurity, the abuse, the addictions--In short, I've seen it all.  She owned it.  This movie should be seen for her performance alone.  (I dare you to recognize the woman in the film as the one pictured above, but they are the same.)

Sweden itself gives a good performance, too, if you know what I mean.  (I know about 40% of the internal shots were filmed in L.A.)  It's obviously beautiful and cold there.  The free education intrigues me, but the violence and rape stats in this trilogy--and in the many books by Henning Mankell--do not paint a pretty picture.  Both authors (I know Larsson has died) try to say that the stats are horrific, possibly even worse than the U.S.'s.  For now, I'd like to visit there, but not live there.  Of course, I can say that about almost anywhere.

And the movie has a lot of nice touches not in the book, which I'll leave alone for now.  Suffice it to say that they involve the whereabouts of a missing woman and a car crash.  The movie also breaks a few rules; the big one is that the movie, like the book, continues on for quite awhile after the main mystery has been solved.  I approve, especially because it is done largely for the sake of characterization.  Rare, these days.

More on this, and the book, later.  Go see it, even if you've already read it.  And I'll be proactive and say that you should read it, too, even if you've already seen the movie.


  1. The book has been on my "To Read" list for some time. I keep passing it up solely because I own it - giving my attention to the library books with due dates instead. Since I hate seeing movies before I've read the book, guess I'll have to send it forward on the queue. Thanks for the great review.

  2. No problem, Namzola. The actual book review is in a blog entry above, from January 2nd. Definitely read the book first before you see the movie, but both are worth doing. And I hear ya about reading the overdue books first. I used to have plenty of those, too.

  3. Have you seen the Swedish version?

    My boss is from Denmark, and one of his huge pet peeves is Hollywood remakes of really good foreign films. It drives him bonkers--he just can't understand why Americans, unlike the rest of the world, can't just watch and appreciate the original films in their original languages with subtitles. His perpetual example is a really good Danish film called "Brodre," absolutely excellent in the original, then Hollywood did a remake called "Brothers" with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire--and in my bosses opinion it was "eh."

    Before Christmas he was going on and on about how annoying it was that the fantastic Swedish films for the "Dragon" trilogy were being remade. "What's wrong with the original? Can't Americans read subtitles?"

    I haven't read the "Dragon" series yet. I'm one of those weirdos who avoids book fads (gasp, I've never read "Harry Potter"), at least until the hype dies down. However during Christmas 2010 P and I were stuck at his brother's apartment in Philly after the Dec 26th storm, and we were looking through our Netflix account for something to watch. It was streaming the first two "Dragon" Swedish films, and I thought, "hmm, maybe these will be interesting..." We intended just to watch one, but got so sucked in to the story, we started the second one right away even though it was 2am. We had to wait a few months for the third to stream, but in all we really enjoyed them.

    Now when I see advertisements for the American version with Rooney Mara, they just look so wrong. Noomi Rapace will forever be the face of Lisbeth Salander in my mind, the same with Michael Nyqvist as well.

    I guess I'll have to see the American version to compare (as I did with "Brothers") but I recommend checking out the Swedish version if you haven't yet.

  4. C., seeing the Swedish movies are very high on my list of things to do. If I can find them on cable, or in the library, or something, I'd see them as soon as this weekend.

    I also usually don't like remakes of good movies. Like, why did Gus van Zandt remake Psycho, especially if he's going to shoot it exactly the same, frame by frame? Dumb, and useless. Not an homage, either. But, in the case of DRAGON, I'm sure the American film company remade it because they knew that not too many Americans--or others throughout the world--would have seen the Swedish original. In this, they would be sadly correct. Americans, in general, do not watch foreign films.

    I've heard that Noomi Rapace did a great job, and I'm sure she did. (She was okay in a simple role in Sherlock Holmes 2.) But give Rooney Mara a chance here: she was brilliant. I'll repeat, she owned this very difficult role.

    I hope all is well. I received a computer camera for Xmas. You know what that means!!!

  5. Good review! I have yet to check out the American version though, but I thought the Swedish one was quite good. The running time was a bit long, but so was the book :) I was very impressed with the structure of the plot as well as the performance by Noomi Rapace. She gave it her all! It may be difficult for you to be objective now having seen Mara's portrayal first. You should definitely watch it and compare the two. Hopefully I'll get a chance to check out the US version before it leaves the theater. For some reason I think Daniel Craig was more suited as Blomkvist than Michael Nyqvist. Just a hunch, I have.

    To the review above, I agree about the movie "Brothers", it was a weak remake!

  6. Thanks, Diane. I'll keep an open mind about Rapace's performance, since her portrayal is well-regarded. I'll be looking for differences in their performances. I'm very interested in seeing it. I think the Blomkvist role is better suited for someone with a little dapper charisma and sleekness, which Craig has--as a current James Bond--and Nyqvist doesn't. Nyqvist just doesn't have the face or the charm for it, and I mean that in the kindest of all possible ways.

  7. You are far too kind. As a female, I will openly admit Nyqvist doesn't have the face or the charisma to pull off Blomkvist. While reading the book, I pictured him having more defined classically handsome features. He was a bit of a ladies man in the novel after all. Not to sound shallow, but I was a bit put off by the actor chosen for the foreign film. In both performance, charm, & physical resemblance. So I do agree Craig was the better choice. I mean that in the least superficial way possible.

    1. I saw Nyqvist in the last Mission Impossible movie and I just couldn't see him as Blomqvist. Then I saw Noomi Rapace in the latest Sherlock Holmes movie, and I could definitely see her as Lisbeth Salander. She has the sparkle in the eyes, and the intensity, for that role.

  8. Now that I've seen both the Swedish and American version of the film I have to say I agree with your review even more so! I honestly feel Fincher's version is the true adaption whereas the Swedish version was more of loosely based one. Aside from the plot changes and the different ending, we are blessed with one hell of a knock out performance by Rooney Mara! She possessed such a rawness yet vulnerability without changing who she was not once ever. I loved that. I agree with your thoughts on her mono-syllabic tone. She didn't budge not once with it, yet you could still get a sense she was opening her cocooned shell slightly with Blomquist and developing affection for him. What a phenomenal performance.

    1. I'm hoping the third film comes out soon. I've heard it's having problems because the screenplay will be nothing like the book. A good thing, since Salander is bedridden for most of the book, then unrealistically nimble. The movie should be better. I'm reading the fourth in the trilogy (Feel my disapproval?) now; so far it would be good only for fans of the trilogy. It wouldn't win over newbies.