The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
I have to confess to hearing much but actually knowing very little about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo before I went to see it. I was aware of the original Swedish movie starring Noomi Rapace (though as yet have not seen it) and that it had been just three years since it’s release. I was interested to see whether this would be a cynical Hollywood cash in or a legitimate attempt to bring a popular story to a wider audience. My first clues to the latter were immediate. Director David Fincher has been responsible for two of my favourite films in Seven and Fight Club as well the strongly executed Zodiac, The Social Network and the often harshly judged Alien 3. My second clue was the blistering credit sequence. A nightmarish mini tale told to a thumping, screaming cover of Immigrant Song sets the tone for the nightmare that unfolds both in the story and characters. This isn’t going to be pretty.
Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a cold film. Largely set in the small town of Hedestad on an island owned by the industrious Vanger family, this snowy isolated place serves as a literal metaphor for the isolation and emotion found in every single character of this film. Fincher’s direction also backs this up with the film awash in cool blues, whites and blacks. The film is largely devoid of warmth but where it is it is usually to hide the movies darkest secrets.
The film opens with the prosecution of journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) for libel. His career ruined and his publication (which he part owns) on the slide he receives a tempting offer from wealthy retired industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plumber) that will not only refill his savings account but offer him revenge on the crooked businessman who sued him. Mr Vanger thinks someone killed his grand niece and has spent 40 years trying to unravel the mystery. Having screened Blomkvist he tasks him with putting to rest the incident that shattered his family. Blomkvist sets off on his task interviewing increasingly estranged and unsettling family members. Everyone in …Dragon Tattoo has secrets. Some are more open about them than others and it’s as these secrets unfolding that sees the films pace picks up. Blomkvist begins to hone in on what he believes to be a lead but hits a dead end and so asks for an assistant. Specifically; and crucially he asks for the person who screened him, Lisbeth Salander.
Lisbeth is the shattered jewel in this dark crown. A damaged young adult under the care of the state due to being declared medically unfit to look after herself. She works as an ad-hoc investigator and hacker, which is how she initially crosses paths with Blomkvist researching his background for his soon to be employer. As Blomkvist begins his investigation we are shown increasingly disturbing snippets of Lisbeth’s life. First her carer has a stroke, she’s the victim of mugging and her new carer holds her welfare to ransom for sexual favours, escalating into rape and sodomy. It’s only so long until Lisbeth strikes back with vicious angry revenge. Rooney Mara instils each and every one of her scenes with potent emotion, in particular the two violently sexually encounters she has with her second carer. It’s visceral stuff and these parcels of horror teach us a lot about the mind of our female protagonist. Distrustful of authority and lacking in basic social grace whether by choice or design, she is aware that she doesn’t fit in but embraces this to it’s fullest. She leaves her rapist instilled with an absolute terror and in fear of her revenge escalating.
When our protagonists meet they are a chalk & cheese pairing who compliment each other both in style and substance. As their relationship grows however it’s Lisbeth who becomes deeper. Lisbeth comes in and dominates the relationship. While suffering some horrific sexual violence she is still aware of her own sexuality and she is blatant and demanding with her needs so when she takes a liking to Blomkvist and wants to fuck, she does so. This leads to us seeing rare hints of happiness in her. The subtle way in which she bounds into their cottage come office and greets the room with a “Hey hey” when most of the time she’ll barely acknowledge someone she’s met for the first time speaks volumes. The complexities of the character help make the film even more engaging and Mara’s face displays an ocean of thought underneath throughout. Her investigative scenes are gripping not only due to Mara’s performance but also the accompanying score from Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor. Having worked with Fincher on The Social Network Reznor once again proves to be a musical tour de force by lining the edges of this film with chilling sounds that adds an element of menace that otherwise would be missing. On the evidence so far Reznor could have found himself a new niche in film scoring.
Like many of the moments in the film it ends in tragedy. Isolation, rejection and broken families are the ultimate themes and they run to the end. There is a moment of happiness when the case is closed and the film takes a brief detour into a James Bond/Mission Impossible style caper but we ultimately come back to the inner emotion of Lisbeth who, after a hidden grand gesture to Blomkvist once again suffers pain at the hands of a man. As she rides away into the horizon burned once again, we know that her complex life and relationships have many stories to tell which makes it all the more gratifying to know that the second and third instalments of the Millennium trilogy are in the planning by Sony. It’s not an easy watch, but certainly a worthy one if you can take the starkness of the subject matter. I for one will now be looking out the original Swedish movie as if Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth is anywhere near as affecting as Rooney Mara’s then it will worth the read.
Tags: alien 3, blomkvist, christopher plummer, complex, daniel craig, david fincher, death, dragon, emotion, family, fight club, girl, girl with the dragon tattoo, hedestad, immigrant song, internal, isolation, james bond, karen o, lisbeth, mission impossible, murder, Mystery, Noomi Rapace, pain, rape, rejection, rooney mara, salander, se7en, seven, sex, snow, social network, sodomy, Sweden, Swedish, tattoo, trent reznor, vanger, zodiac