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

The Social Network – Review

The Social Nework (7.5/10)

Directed by David Fincher. With Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara, Joseph Mazzello

I know, this film has now been out for weeks, but I’ve only just managed to catch it on the big screen and since I can tell this is one of those we are going to be talking about in the coming Awards season, I thought I should probably spend a couple of words discussing it.

Easily the starting point has got to be the script. Aaron Sorkin is the real star of the film. The fast, sharp and witty dialogue, the same we all fell in love with on the West Wing is Sorkin’s trade mark and it is apparent on pretty much every single line in “The Social Network”. At the end of the day it’s what really makes it work.

David Fincher’s direction this time seems invisible to the untrained eye, but obviously to be able to make a bunch of nerds sitting by a computer interesting and compelling, as this film is,  must have been not an easy task.

The entire cast is faultless, lead by Jesse Eisenberg who is absolutely perfect in his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg. Even Justin Timberlake, however hateful and annoyingly disgusting he is in the movie,  is actually very good as Sean Parker, the inventor of napster, as we learn from his first scene in the film.

From the start the film  quite clearly does not want to take sides and decides to avoid lawsuites by drawing its dialogue from the various transcripts from the various procedural meetings with the various sides’ lawyers.

And if there is a problem with the film, this is maybe it: there’s a certain detachment throughout, from the way it’s filmed (Ficher’s direction is often quite cold and calculated), to the way it’s written (typical of Sorkin), and edited (the constant cutting backwards and forwards from the procedural meetings to the real story), basically from the way it’s conceived right from the start. All of which prevents you from having a real emotional attachment to any of the character on the screen.

You never really care about any of them in particular. Each of the actors does absolutely their best with what they are given, but clearly that’s not enough.

We almost want to feel bad for Andrew Garfield’s character (who plays Zuckeberg’s best friend Eduardo Saverin), but we are never given the chance to get too close to him, to fully care and really share his feeling of betrayal. In fact his character disappears half way through the film (he goes to New York) and when he comes back towards the end, are we supposed to reconnect straight away and feel for him? I don’t think so.

The film is so careful about not taking sides and sticking to the truth that it ends up being too clinical, cold and makes you feel really detached from it. I am sure that was probably the way all those people are in real life, but if you have to watch them for 2 hours you really need someone to care about.a

Towards the end (SPOILER ALERT… but not really…), we’re almost given a glimpse of a moment where we are meant to feel sorry for Mark Zuckerberg (a person so incapable to connect with real people, just as he was so good in making them connect with the internet), but it’s too little, too late. It’s really not enough and actually, that’s not how the film has been up until that point.

I really wanted to love this movie, I wanted it to become my favorite film of the year and instead, I just thought it was all right.. but not more than that. And I am almost angry with myself for saying that!

With all the will in the world, I don’t think I can give it more than 7.5/10. Still a very good film, but not the masterpiece I was hoping.

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