9 First Impressions of David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The notorious embargo on David Fincher's adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has officially been lifted, and thus you can expect a frenzied film-culture commentariat to weigh in with raves, rumblings and other reactions all day. Things are no different here, where a few first impressions are making the rounds.
Look for Stephanie Zacharek's full review closer to Dragon Tattoo's Dec. 21 release date, but in grand Movieline tradition, find herewith a few notes to consider ahead of next week. For the record, this is mostly spoiler-free; considering the blockbuster success of both Stieg Larsson's source novel and international audience for the original Swedish screen adaptation, I guess I could be a little more generous with plot specifics and scenarios. But seeing as I was unfamiliar with both, it's probably safest to assume you might be as well.
1. Daniel Craig's association aside, this is the most transfixing title sequence the James Bond franchise never had. Maybe Trent Reznor and Karen O can rig up a Led Zeppelin cover for Skyfall.
2. It looks cold! Like, really cold. Like, "How is Sweden habitable?" cold. I don't think there's any CGI breath on this one, though maybe the technology has improved since The Social Network. Either way, the atmosphere is extraordinary throughout, even in the thaw.
3. For a guy who's always evinced a general impatience with and/or disdain for the news media while promoting his work, Fincher has an almost fetishistic eye for journalistic procedure. Dragon Tattoo presents a much more glamorized presentation than that of Zodiac, even going so far as to show disgraced-reporter-turned-investigator Mikael Blomqvist as a guy happily dallying with his married publisher and cavorting intimately with Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the punked-out bisexual hacker with whom he partners to crack a series of unsolved murders. Still! Fincher gets these guys and their obsessions. Or at least it looks like he's trying to.
4. That Stellan Skarsgård sure pours one menacing bottle of wine.
5. Again, I haven't seen director Niel Arden Oplev's earlier adaptation, but the general consensus toward that film seems to be that Lisbeth's rape and her comeuppance are shockingly graphic -- necessarily so to understand the depth of the character's lifelong pain and fury. For those worried that the American remake will sanitize and thus dilute these events? Don't be. I have never seen a more graphic, harrowing and violent rape-revenge scenario in a mainstream Hollywood film. It may actually go too far, if only because of the vast emotional distance that Lisbeth has to make up in the remainder of screenwriter Steven Zaillian's adaptation. That said, the adaptation is looong at 158 minutes, and...
6. Mara pulls it off. She's pretty damned good in this. Everyone is, really (Christopher Plummer reinforces his already redoubtable Oscar positioning, and Fincher knows exactly how to use Joely Richardson), but Mara doesn't shape-shift and skulk and scowl so much as give us a young woman stranded at the farthest edge of modernity, eyes darting constantly back into the pitch-black abyss in which she's taught to believe she belongs. Her Lisbeth comes most alive in those fragments of seconds when she seems capable of -- even constructed from -- anything.
7. Maybe I've just seen too many Bergman films, but I didn't know 1966-era Sweden could practically be as mediated by photography as latter-day America. I mean, did everyone really take that many pictures back then, with even the crappy ones making it into photo albums hanging around early half a century later?
8. Enya better have gotten paid well for that music cue, because I don't know if anyone who sees this can sit still for "Orinoco Flow" again.
9. I get the nihilistic novelty of marketing Dragon Tattoo as "the Feel-Bad Movie of Christmas," yet I found the film strangely uplifting. And I'm depressed about everything! The ending might not be optimal for at least one character, but hey -- we've got two more movies in the series. The only person who'll likely feel bad about this one is David Denby. I don't know, though, you tell me.
Return next week for Stephanie Zacharek's full review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and read all of Movieline's coverage of the film here.