Friday, December 30, 2011

Movie review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

One thing I'll say for sure:  the story depicted in David Fincher's much-ballyhooed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is Swedish alright.  Swedish to the bone.  No other culture could produce such a dark, angstful tale of horror and perversion than that of a people oppressed by endless Scandinavian winter.  Depravity beneath a thin veneer of respectability.  "Like an IKEA cabinet," as one prominent character put it.

The film is based on the eponymous novel by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. 

It's the story of Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a disgraced journalist who is hired by wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate a murder that occurred 40 years previously. Blomkvist enlists the help of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a troubled young woman with a talent for hacking into computer security systems.  As their investigation proceeds, the unlikely pair begins to discover the disturbing, unseemly truth about a prominent Swedish family.

The film is expertly crafted, as one might expect from Fincher, who's previous works include Fight Club, and the sci-fi masterpiece, Alien.  And just as with those two films, Fincher maintains a consistent atmosphere throughout Dragon Tattoo.  Viewers are haunted by dread of what is to be revealed.  We don't know what it is, but we know we won't like it when we do.  

Rooney Mara's performance in the title role, as an alienated social outcast with a gift, was intriguing; and Daniel Craig's portrait of a stoic, joyless Swede seemed apropos, given what I know about Swedes.  But Plummer's performance was my favorite:  a wealthy, half-mad industrialist nearing the end of his life and determined to know the whole ugly truth about his own family.

Most of the story takes place in a small town in northern Sweden known as Hedestad.  But I especially enjoyed scenes depicting Stockholm, which brought back memories of my visit there in 1999. 

At the conclusion of the film, I wasn't sure I had enjoyed it.  I thought perhaps it was not the best film to view during these brief, gloomy days of early winter.  But after a few hours' reflection, I'm coming to appreciate the film's texture and its uncompromising obduracy.

All in all, I've come to the conclusion that David Fincher makes good flicks.  No doubt about it. 

Go see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by all means.  Just make sure you're up for it.

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