The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Review

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) 

Director: David Fincher. Writers: Steven Zaillian. Cast: Daniel CraigRooney MaraChristopher PlummerStellan SkarsgårdRobin Wright

Your appreciation and enjoyment for  this film mainly comes down to whether you buy into the story or not and whether you are you a fan of the original book (I should probably say books, since this is the first part of a trilogy). Unfortunately my answer to both questions is quite a drastic no: I know I am going to be quite unpopular with this statement, but I’ve never really fallen in love with the book and I in fact just don’t seem to be able to  find the appeal for the actual story itself. I find it quite derivative, exploitive, contrived and a bit heavy-handed to be honest. These exact same problems are translated (in fact even enhanced) into both film adaptations.

It’s probably unfair to draw comparisons with Niels Arden Oplev‘s 2009 version, but also unavoidable. There are of course similarities, but given the fact that David Fincher is directing, the US version is a lot more slicker and cinematic. It is also closer to the original book in many places, but, as always in condensing it all into a movie, it has lost some of its more polemical thrusts from Larsson‘s story and some of the details which made the characters so compelling. All for the sake of the actual crime/mystery plot (which let’s face it, it’s pretty bland for today’s standards and brings very little new to the genre). So in the end, not only the film suffers from the same problems of the book but by shrinking it all it has lost some of its more subtle subtext too.

I am not really saying anything new here: what works in books doesn’t necessarily work movies. For example, the film spends a long time setting up the two main characters who don’t meet until a good hour and 20 minutes into the story. And yet despite all this time Daniel Craig‘s character is just as elusive to the audience as it was at the beginning. That is an ongoing problem with Fincher’s movies. His usual cold approach to film-making and detachment from his characters makes it always very hard for anyone to empathise with anyone on the screen. Craig does bring some unexpected charm and a slight sense of humour to his character (something which was completely absent in the previous version), but it’s really not enough to make you care for his character, let alone for making you want to watch him again for the next couple of sequels (Fincher has recently announced his interest to direct both sequels back to back… But no official announcement will be made until this one get released, of course).

It’s Rooney Mara who really steals the show here (well, let face it, so did Noomi Rapace in the previous version. It’s a great part to play!). This is one of the performances of the year and there will certainly be nominations and awards for her coming left and right over the next few months. She even manages bring a certain realism to an otherwise over-the-top character by convey both fragility and an incredible strength, sometimes with pure simple looks.

However, did we really need that 1 hour and 20 minutes of preparation before these two characters meet? Did we really need to see the infamous rape scene? Yes of course, it’s that rape that gives her the motivation for wanting to solve the crime, but why couldn’t they just convey that with a quick flashback? Why was the audience allowed inside that room watching not only the rape but also her revenge to her rapist? Wouldn’t it have been just as effective and less exploitive if we had been left outside the door, maybe listening to the screams?

The problem is, if you take all that preamble out of the equation, you’re actually left with very little else because let’s face it, as a mystery this is a fairly derivative film.

As I said, these are all queries with the book and the story itself . Given the material Fincher has probably down the best he could. This is a handsome film, with some solid acting (Plummer once again is at his best!)  but in the end you’re left with a sense of “…so what?”.

I couldn’t help feeling that everything that Fincher did in this film, he had already done it before.

The dark tones of Se7en, the seedy  and multilayered atmosphere of Zodiac, the dark ominous  music (if we can call it that) by Trent Reznor from  The Social Network.

Finally it’s probably worth mentioning the impressive “James Bondesque” title sequence (again, Fincher has down beautiful title sequences before) to the notes of the cover version of  “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin which I found absolutely mesmerizing and yet somehow seemed to belong to a different film altogether.

In the end this film adds very little to the previous version, aside from giving us the wonderful Rooney Mara, and certainly adds nothing to what I already know about David Fincher. I just look forward to seeing him handling a script and a story worth of his craft, because I do believe he’s one of the best directors out there right now…

6.5/10

Beginners – Review

Beginners (2010) 

Director: Mike Mills Writer: Mike Mills Stars:  Ewan McGregorChristopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent 

They may tell you that this is a comedy. You might have read about it on newspapers and magazines, you might have seen the poster looking more like one of those US rom-com than anything else… You’ve probably even looked at the trailer which sells it as an Indi-like comedy (and only hints to something else behind it), but be aware…

To a certain degree this is comedy in the most Shakespearian sense of the word (where even the most dramatic plays are considered comedic just because they end well). There are certainly some inspired funny moments here and there, however if you decide to go and watch “Beginners”, get ready to bring some tissues along because behind the laughs and the weird quirky tone, there’s a really heart-breaking story at its core.

The film essentially intercuts between two timelines: the first one follows the few last months of the charming, flamboyant and playful 75 years old Hal (an Oscar-worthy role by Christopher Plummer) who has recently come out as gay and most crucially who’s terminally ill with cancer. Don’t worry, I am not giving away anything: the film actually starts with his son, Oliver (Ewan McGregor in what’s probably his best performance) clearing up his deceased dad’s apartment.

The second timeline centres around his Oliver himself having to live with and accept the death of his father as well dealing with a new relationship with a free-spirited French actress, Anna (Melanie Laurent).

The film moves backwards and forwards between the two timelines and as it unfolds, it underlines the many contradictions of life: there’s light and darkness, music and silence, joy and sadness, laughs and tears (mainly tears as far as I am concerned: I was a total wreck by the end of it!), life and death.

It’s a film feels incredibly personal and yet it actually manages to be universal. After all it deals with the things we all very familiar with: parents, love, loneliness, death.

The beauty of it all is its attention to details: it’s a film made by simple moments which are so small and yet carry so much meaning. Like clearing a house after a person has died, going through their clothes, their personal properties, having to deal with the practicality of having to write a death certificate, but also, the clear realisation that life goes on for the living.

It is poignant and yet hopeful. It’s probably not for everyone, and it may have a few moments where it drags a little bit, but in the end it’s so disarmingly honest and beautifully observed and despite having a “talking dog” (and getting away with it) it feels incredibly truthful and real and I’d love to recommend it, but I’m aware that it’s a really tough watch and it’s a hard film to love. However it stayed with me long after the  credits finished rolling

7.5/10

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