Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Under most circumstances I am not a big fan of remakes. This is not to say a reinterpretation applied to a great film or piece of classical literature were the story is reworked in order to mold it to the social sensibilities of a new generation. I’m talking about the unimaginative rehashing of the same story. This trepidation is certainly not applicable to the latest incarnation of one of the most popular trilogies in modern literature; ‘The Millennium Trilogy’ by Stieg Larsson. The three novels have already been made in their native land of Sweden becoming among the most popular films not only their but on the global scale as well. Now, the Americanized version has been released after being one of the most anticipated movies in quite a long time. Although this English language version closely follows the novel, therefore inherently the same story, the subtle cultural differences and variations in directorial styles makes this incarnation intrinsically a new movie. Of course it certainly a major positive that the American director taking on this project is no less a luminary in the industry as David Fincher. He has built his career on being a meticulous director who’s perchance for innovation has become legendary. A filmmaker like Fincher is known for his vast range as a director willing to take on an eclectic variety of genres although a significant number of his films are quite dark in nature. This fits in perfectly considering the thematic content of this story. Fincher is also exceptional in presenting extremely quirky characters that present a challenge for his actor making a role in one of his projects a much highly sought after assignment. It is often a career making part for those fortunate enough to make the grade. He is the kind of director who can explore the artistic side of his craft while not failing to keep the primary goal of entertainment in sight. The sum total of these factors makes this American version of the story into something entirely new, or at least a film that offers a worthwhile alternative to some of the most fascinating characters ever devised in literature.
Although the cast and crew were transplanted across the Atlantic the story remained in Sweden. Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), co publisher of the investigative magazine Millennium has just lost a judgment of libel instigated by shady entrepreneur, Hans-Erik Wennerström (Ulf Friberg). The judgment was extensive and expensive casting some doubt as to the viability of the magazine. This causes Blomkvist to distance himself from the publication so as to provide an opportunity for it to recover its reputation. Unbeknownst to Blomkvist he was the subject of a covert investigation. Tycoon Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) hires researcher and computer hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) to perform an exceptionally extensive background check on Blomkvist. She is a deeply disturbed young woman with a troubled life but among the elite hackers of the world she is considered the pinnacle. The emotional turmoil that seethes within Lisbeth is clearly manifested in her appearance. Rail thin and pale her body and face are festooned with multiple piercings and ornate tattoos. The most elaborate example of ink is the dragon tattoo extending over her shoulder and down her gaunt back. Lisbeth is fiercely defensive of her privacy and although she takes both male and female lovers is usually emotionally distant. The one quality that she has in common with Blomkvist is an unshakable obsession with the truth. In return for incriminating information about Wennerström supplied to Blomkvist the report will undertake an investigation on behave of Vanger. The case is to resolve the murder of Vanger’s grandniece, Harriet, 40 years ago. The case has eluded the authorities but Blomkvist discovers one clue; the girl’s notebook. In order to dig into how it pertains to the girl’s murder he hires Lisbeth as his assistant. Salander is willing to get away; her life is more of a mess than usual. She is under court mandated guardianship. Her last guardian sexually molested her and when he attempts a repeat the violent propensities she is capable of surface. The same intense mystery unfolds but thanks to the talent behind this rendition it is not quite the same as you previously seen.
Since the script by Steven Zaillian closely follows the novel by Stieg Larsson it is only natural that there are many similarities between the two. After watching both versions fairly close together the conclusion that came to mind is the differences are qualitative in nature. This is what makes this re-envisioning so successful; Fincher did not set out to remake the Swedish original instead his goal was to provide an alternate interpretation of the same source material. The films are obviously the same story but the texture of the presentation is different. Fincher has his own unique style especially when handling dark material like this. The controlled creepiness demonstrated so extraordinarily well in ‘Seven’ and ‘Fight Club’ resurfaces here. This time it is clear that Fincher has continued to grow and mature and mature artistically. This film exhibits a masterful command of the elements of his style from the deployment of shadows and musical queues to reinforce the mood established by the performances.
This brings us to the selection of the cast. Many men have played the world’s most famous spy, James Bond but for many of the actors the role restrained their future work through type casting. Daniel Craig has expertly avoided this effect by branching out from the Bond character taking on parts that continue to challenge him as an actor. He was the old west gun slinger fighting aliens and the owner of a spooky house between gigs as Bond. By the time he was called upon to provide his own take on Blomkvist he was able to infuse the character with an alternate persona that still remained true to the literary incarnation of the character. When it was announced that this film received the green light for production it instantly became the most coveted role in Hollywood. Any management firm representing an actress of the proper age began inundating the production casting office hoping to make the short list. In a very strange turn of events for Hollywood A List actresses exhibiting a voluptuous figure were rejected; "T &A’ was a deal breaker here. Finally an up comer, Rooney Mara became the chosen one. I was very impressed with her emotional range in ‘Tanner Hall’ but that innate talent was only a part of how she approached the role of Lisbeth. Mara carefully constructed her character layering the persona around herself. The physical transformation was mind blowing. This wholesome young woman was cloaked with the outward manifestations of a personality nearly destroyed by pain, suffering and betrayal. Mara had to have the Tattoos added making her flesh into a emotionally ravished canvas. Piercing of her brows, nipples and lip added to the antisocial look as did the serve haircuts. She also had to portray a heavy smoker, an affectation that current attracts a lot of negative attention particularly with young stresses. This incredible transformation was only stage dressing. The true genius of how Mara approached the role was on the emotional level. You immediately believed in the sincerity of her award winning performance; a brilliant but emotionally fractured young woman. In all this is the remake that breaks all the rules with its powerful originality.
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