First, let’s address the 500-pound gorilla in the room. He's sitting right over there, next to Arthur and Conan the Barbarian. No, we really didn’t need a Hollywood remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo given the Swedish trilogy that precedes it was only released last year. But it happened. And the fact remains that subtitled films only reach a small percentage of American moviegoers – stupid, I know – so many will be exposed to the exploits of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist for the first time when David Fincher’s film hits theaters later this month. So, as the heated debate rages on within film discussion circles, newcomers to the series - as well as lovers of Fincher’s artistic vision and technical sophistication - will find plenty to like in the story’s labyrinth of murder, corruption, family secrets and inner demons.
For the uninitiated, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo kicks off the Hollywood big screen adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium Trilogy, which have sold 65 million copies worldwide. First published back in 2005, shortly after Larsson’s own death, the first novel in the series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo introduced readers to financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and avenging computer hacker Lisbeth Salander.
Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillan stay very close to Larsson’s unflinching source material which examines the corporate, societal, and personal corrosion Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Salander (Rooney Mara) uncover as they lower themselves deeper and deeper into an investigation of a 40-year-old murder in Sweden. Hired by one of the country’s wealthiest industrialists, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to get to the bottom of the long-ago disappearance of his beloved niece Harriet, Blomkvist begins his investigation on a remote island on the frozen Swedish coast.
Meanwhile, Salander, who is hired as Blomqvist’s research assistant, heads to the island to join the journalist in his search for Harriet’s killer. Together, the unlikely sleuths begin to eventually dig up a chain of homicides that snakes from the past into the present, all the while forging a fragile bond of trust even as they are dragged into the most savage currents of modern day crime.
Salander is an enigma, and in a way, the film’s pulsing heart. The leather-clad, computer-hacking punk prodigy whose abrasive countenance stands as a dire warning for people to stay away, is a heroine unlike any in the oft-explored world of crime thrillers. She is painted with many contrasting shades: heavily armored but vulnerable; volatile yet meek. Although subjected to sexual violence and abuse as a young girl, Salander never lets herself become a victim, instead having healed over the wounds with fibrous scar tissue that manifest in a steely, determined resolve. The victim of a brutal anal rape (quite graphically depicted in a scene that some viewers may find hard to watch), Salander sheds nary a tear, instead channeling her grief on a plot to exact revenge on her rapist, who was the man in charge of overseeing her inheritance.
Mara sinks herself into the role of the feminist heroine, challenging Noomi Rapace’s legacy as the ultimate extreme badass. Mara’s Salander is a bit more well-rounded as she hints at a tender vulnerability that Rapace never got to address in her version of Dragon Tattoo. Though the jagged edge of Salander’s persona is carried over, one wonders why Fincher chose to deemphasize the prominence of the titular tattoo that, in Niels Arden Oplev’s film, stretched from neck to thigh, but here rather insignificantly adorns the bearer’s upper back.
The large ensemble cast that also includes Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard, Joely Richardson and Goran Visnjic, all have significant moments in the film and occasionally each gets a moment to pop. As the missing person investigation deepens, it begins to seep its way deeper and deeper into the expansive Vanger family, of which every member is a worthy suspect.
Viewers hoping to enjoy a new twist or distinctive angle on the Swedish original may find themselves a wee bit disappointed as Fincher and Zaillan’s telling strays very little from Larsson’s intricate tome, as did Oplev’s version. But this is the Fincher and Mara show and each leaves a unique and indelible mark on this brilliant story. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) continues Fincher’s hot streak of tremendous films and will likely vault Mara’s popularity into the stratosphere. This is one of the rare instances of a bigger budget and Hollywood’s remake-happy finger actually getting it right.
MPAA Rating: R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language.
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Steven Zaillian
Cast: Daniel Craig Rooney Mara; Christopher Plummer; Stellan Skarsgard; Steven Berkoff
Genre: Drama | Thriller
Tagline: The Feel Bad Movie Of Christmas.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Can I call you Lisbeth?"
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Official Site: www.dragontattoo.net
Release Date: December 21, 2010
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 20, 2012.
Synopsis: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander (Mara), a young computer hacker.
Available on Blu-ray - March 20, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0; French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set (2 BDs, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; DVD copy; BD-Live
Director David Fincher’s use of HD cameras really pays off in this crisp transfer of digital perfection. Presented in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1), Sony has released a relatively breathless picture upon an unsuspecting public. The Red One MX and Red Epic cameras captured a wide array of razor-sharp images whose clarity is unsurpassed thus far in the medium. Hairline fabrics are detailed with glorious levels of texture. Every moment is pristine; from snow flakes falling to the whiskers of a cat. Detail, detail, detail. The defining in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo continues with colors that are deep in gray and rich in sinister undertones that play nicely against shadows and low level light. Orange flames are dynamic when on the screen, but colors remain stylistically muted with bluish tint that will please fans. Black levels are thick, but never runny. They remain full of shape and hold their edges even with the thickest of evening layers. Composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross get the deluxe treatment of their soundtrack with a DTS-HD Master Audio presentation that warps and twists speakers as well as it adds layers to the film. Dialogue is well mixed and delivers a great separation between the many moods of the score and the quick exchanges in the dialogue. All around greatness.
- One of the best directors currently working in the business takes on the film’s commentary…all by himself. David Fincher discusses much about the adapting the film, differing it ever so slightly from the original film, the layers within the film, choice of shots, opening credits, and the music. This commentary, one of the best, is a filmmaking fan’s slice of heaven. Detailed and informative, Fincher does not disappoint.
One could simply not want for more (except maybe a copy of the score, too) with the quality and quantity of supplemental features included with this release. The material covers cast & crew interviews, adapting the book to film (again), prolonged segments deconstructing the characters of Lisbeth Salander, Mikael Blomkvist and Martin Vanger and the actors who portray them. Two portions of the supplementals are divided into shooting locations - "Sweden" and "Hollywood" – and the differences/importances the locations provided. All are incredibly detailed and include acting auditions, deleted scenes, and interviews with cast and crew members. Post Production covers the finishing touches and Promotion covers the actual selling and advertising of the movie. Quality reigns supreme with this release. Ever wandered about the difficulty of shooting a rape scene? A torture scene? A scene in which a star has to have his head wrapped in plastic? The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo has you covered.
- Men who Hate Women (7 min)
- Casting Salander (16 min)
- Different in Every Way (6 min)
- The Look of Salander (15 min)
- Mara/Fincher (5 min)
- Irene Nesser (6 min)
- Salander Test Footage (3 min)
- Casting Blomkvist (7 min)
- Daniel Craig on Film Acting (4 min)
- Dressing Blomkvist (3 min)
- Stellan Skarsgård on Acting (3 min)
- Psychopathy (6 min)
- Bondage (5 min)
- Torture (4 min)
- Wrapped in Plastic (5 min)
- Stockholm Syndrome (18 min)
- Stockholm's Tunnelbana (6 min)
- Fuck These People (6 min)
- The End (12 min)
- Picture Wrap (7 min)
- Casting Armansky (5 min)
- Armansky Audition (7 min)
- Thinking Evil Shit (5 min)
- Rape/Revenge (17 min)
- Int. Blomkvist's Cottage (6 min)
- Int. Martin's House (8 min)
- Int. Salander's Apt. (3 min)
- In the Cutting Room (14 min)
- ADR (7 min)
- Main Titles (3 min)
- Visual Effects Montage (8 min)
- Hard Copy (9 min)
- Metal One Sheet (4 min)
- Trailers/TV Spots
- DVD Copy
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy