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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
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Wednesday January 25th, 2012

I was hoping I would be able to convince my friends to go see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but being as it was not their standard fare I wanted to warn them in advance.

“It will be dark and violent,”  I told them – knowing full well there would be a rape.  Now, I had not seen the original film, nor have I read the book.  My knowledge was based entirely on the wall-to-wall media blitz that preceded the film’s release. 

 “Rooney Mara, what was it like having David Fincher make you do a thousand takes of a rape scene?” - Every journalist ever. 

Bless Mara for her patience and curse her for the New York Giants.

To my surprise my friends wanted to see the film.  Outstanding.  I love a good David Fincher film, and now even more so that he has been collaborating with the masterful duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on music.  This is the same crack up team that won an Oscar for their effort on The Social Network.

In spite of my love for the soundtrack and the legendary Immigrant Song I will say the one great shortcoming of the film is the cool, but gratuitous opening credit sequence. I thought for a second I had mistakenly gone to see a James Bond film. Daniel Craig in Oilfinger, or Opening Credits Are Forever.  The jokes virtually write themselves.

Alas, the credits ended and what followed was a pleasure; A dark, sadistic, violent mind-fuck of a pleasure. Much has been said about the picture feeling overstuffed as a function of being a literary adaptation.  This is probably true, but I never felt bored.  My time was not wasted.  For the most part I left the film wanting to know and see more.

A lot of the credit for my near obsessive curiosity is owed to Rooney Mara’s portrayal.  Or at least I will give her most of the credit.  There is something inescapably savvy that she brings to the roles she plays.  In The Social Network one certainly saw her as smart and formidable.  In Youth in Revolt her character was little more than eye candy, but self-assured, not to be trifled with eye candy.

Her Lisbeth Salander is not beautiful or outgoing, but there is a quiet inner strength.  Something is withheld from the audience that makes here interesting in a way that other heroines simply are not.

It seems in most major Hollywood productions these days the strong female lead is a fantasy in that she is both sexy and able to overpower men in hand to hand combat.  I submit Kill Bill, Colombiana, and Haywire as obvious examples, but we could go on all day long.

It’s not that Lisbeth isn’t wearing a tight leather outfit.  It’s not that she isn’t performing heroics by twisting gender roles.  With the exception of Angelina Jolie *cough*, the world of computer hackers is dominated by men.  What makes her character remarkable is that she is at least plausible.  There is no biological reason she can’t be brilliant, tech savvy and a motorcycle enthusiast.   And I like that.  It’s refreshing.

The rest of the cast is excellent in support as well; Daniel Craig takes his turn as the Bond girl of sorts with great success. Stellan Skarsgård once again challenges the audience to decipher if he had been cast against type or not.  Robin Wright’s role is small, but important, and as much can be said for Christopher Plummer.

Yorick van Wageningen.  I’ve never noticed you before. I will never fail to notice you again. Creep.

Fincher is Fincher.  It has been said elsewhere that he has mined this subject matter previously in the likes of Seven and Zodiac.  Indeed.  Yet I’m not prepared to say there is a problem here unless his next film is about Lizbeth aging backwards.

The only thing left to add here is my disappointment in the way the movie was covered in the media.  Are we such a cynical public that the measure of a film is its box office draw?  Apparently so, as far less was written about its substance than its finances.

Alas.

Go see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo if you are in the mood for something dark, violent, entertaining, but only modestly profitable. My friends and I liked it a lot.  For the rest of you, Avatar is still available on Blu-Ray and DVD.

I should also note that Ms. Mara has been nominated for an academy award.  Good luck to her and again, curse the Giants.