Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: Rooney Mara is All Woman in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 68 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Running time: 158 minutes (2 hours, 38 minutes)
MPAA - R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language
DIRECTOR: David Fincher
WRITER: Steven Zaillian (based upon the novel, Man som hatar kvinnor, by Stieg Larsson)
PRODUCERS: Cean Chaffin, Scott Rudin, Soren Staermose, and Ole Sondberg
EDITORS: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
COMPOSERS: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Academy Award winner


Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson, Geraldine James, Goran Visnjic, Donald Sumpter, Ulf Friberg, Julian Sands, and David Dencik

The subject of this movie review is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a 2011 American thriller and murder mystery from director David Fincher. The film is based upon the late author Stieg Larsson's 2005 novel, Man som hatar kvinnor (translates to "Men who hate women"). The novel is best known by the title used for its English-language release, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which was previously adapted into a 2009 Swedish film.

The film opens with Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), the co-owner of Millennium magazine, losing a libel case. He doesn't know that a brilliant, but troubled computer hacker and researcher named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) has just compiled an extensive background check on him for Swedish business magnate Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Vanger wants Blomkvist to solve the apparent murder of his niece, Harriet Vanger, 40 years ago. There is a common thread that eventually brings Mikael and Lisbeth together, when she becomes his assistant. Are their talents enough to solve what seems to be a series of murders of young women over a 20-year period, including the time when Harriet disappeared?

I saw the American film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo about two weeks after I saw the 2009 Swedish version, so I could not help but compare the two. I prefer the Swedish film, and I have to admit that there were things in the Swedish version that were not in the American version, and I missed them. I think the American film pales a little in comparison to it. Why?

The American film's casting is inferior. Daniel Craig is too rough and craggy-looking to play the introspective Mikael Blomkvist, and Christopher Plummer, fine actor that he is, seems out of place as Henrik Vanger. That the overrated, anorexic-like Ellen Page was once considered as the choice to play Lisbeth Salander makes me realize that I'm luck the filmmakers got one bit of casting dead right. That is casting Rooney Mara as Lisbeth.

The premise of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is simply great. The subplots are also exciting and appealing, and the words to describe how good the characters are fail me. Give David Fincher this kind of material and he'll give us an exceptional movie, which he does in spite of my complaints. Still, everything turns on Lisbeth Salander.

That is why I give a lot of the credit for this movie's quality to Rooney Mara's performance as Lisbeth. Following Noomi Rapace's mesmerizing turn in the Swedish version is not a job for the squeamish or the overrated. Mara's Lisbeth has a spry sense of humor and sparkling wit. She is both feral and vulnerable, and she seems chaste while also being capable of being quite the seductress. Her intelligence and willingness to get physical with opponents makes Lisbeth often seem like a superhero.

Fincher makes Mara the focus of the story, and sometimes his attention to details about Lisbeth seems lurid. However, the script has holes and some of the other actors aren't up to snuff, so Fincher rightly builds the success of this film on Rooney Mara1s solid foundation. In Mara, the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has a dragon of an actress, indeed.

7 of 10

2012 Academy Awards: 1 win: "Best Achievement in Film Editing" (Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter); 4 nominations: "Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role" (Rooney Mara), "Best Achievement in Cinematography" (Jeff Cronenweth), "Best Achievement in Sound Editing" (Ren Klyce), and "Best Achievement in Sound Mixing" (David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, and Bo Persson)

2012 BAFTA Awards: 2 nominations: "Best Cinematography" (Jeff Cronenweth) and "Best Original Music" (Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor)

2012 Golden Globes, USA: 2 nominations: "Best Original Score - Motion Picture" (Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor) and "Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama" (Rooney Mara)

Thursday, August 16, 2012



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