Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Movie Theater: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

More violent and thrilling take on the same detective story

The August edition of "Sunday Movie Theater" arrived nearly two months after the previous entry into the series, Rouge 胭脂扣 (1988), and unlike that Cantonese romance story with a supernatural flavor, the movie to be introduced this time is a detective story with plenty of visual and narrative violence.


Movie poster is from Hollywood Dotcom.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", a 2011 movie directed by David Fincher. Technical movie details can be seen on IMDB, while the entire story is up on the movie's Wikipedia page.


Trailer of the movie.
Video clip is from Youtube. Follow this link to the website if you can't see anything.

This movie is David Fincher's movie adaptation of the first book from Stieg Larsson's "Millennium: trilogy. It was the first, as it came out two years after the original movie by Danish Director Niels Arden Oplev. Having read the book and watched the 2009 movie beforehand, I can say right away that this second movie is a fairly accurate adaptation of the overall story written by Stieg Larsson, but is definitely much more exciting to watch than the first movie.

And I said that from an objective point-of-view. ^^ I do like the first movie's take on the novel, especially the character depiction. I had planned a review on that movie in this segment in the future, which is going to be quite interesting as the two movie titles are exactly the same, but the movies themselves are different, production-wise. ^^




As mentioned above, even though the story is close, this version by David Fincher - the "American" version if you will, is very exciting to watch. ^^ That excitement comes from a very effective blend of the characters, story-telling and music, which is very impressive in my opinion. The whole story is essentially about a disgraced journalist and a strange, anti-social female hacker trying to solve an old crime that happened in a remote area in Sweden. Most of the movie shows either one of the pair analysing old photos, looking into old books and paper records, interviewing people, most which are investigative work that aren't the most exciting action to watch in a movie, and yet, everything turns out so well and interesting in this movie that even simple things that someone said, close-up on a certain part of a photo, or text that popped up on a computer monitor seem interesting and are able to draw the audience into the story.



In terms of the characters, Rooney Mara really brings out the weirdness of her hacker character Lisbeth Salander. A beautiful and elegant woman the actress is in most of her other movies, she was totally transformed for her role as Lisbeth. ^^ Rugged, unconventional, and weird in appearance, but that look is also matched by her excellent acting to portray the tough, intelligent, independent yet socially awkward personalities of her character. She did amazingly well to allow the audience to relate to a strange character like her. ^^

Then again, towards the ending of the movie, I thought Rooney did a little too well playing the con-artist visiting various banks around Europe to transfer money out of Hans-Erik Wennerstrom's accounts. She was achieving she wanted, including the revenge for Mikael Blomkvist of course, and doing that so well that I was cheering for her throughout the series of scenes, but I was also slightly puzzled by her character's confidence at that same time, "I thought you weren't comfortable dealing with people all this while?" ^^




Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist who got into trouble at the beginning after covering a story on Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Without comparison to Michael Nyqvist, the actor who played the same role in Niels Arden Oplev's movie, I think Daniel Craig did really well in portraying the curiosity and perhaps the intrinsic, journalistic nature in figuring and linking what he observes. As mentioned before, all these investigative work isn't supposed to be exciting to watch in a movie, but as his performance is compelling, you are drawn into the story to follow Mikael on his quest to solve the mystery, and you would pay attention to what he does and say as that represents progress in the overall investigation, however mundane some of the scenes may seem at first.

By the way, just because it's a crime movie with Daniel Craig in it doesn't mean that he got to do anything related to his role as James Bond. XD Mikael was never close to any car chase, enemy pursue, firearm of any sort or explosion of any scale. He was almost shot at one point, in which he reacted by running away as fast as he could without thinking twice. XD

Towards the end of the movie, he was the subject of Martin Vanger's sadistic torture though. Given that his 007 character endured something worse in "Casino Royale", I suppose there's a bit of connection there, a very remote and minor one that is. ^^;



Other characters like the aforementioned Martin Vanger, played by the very versatile Stellan Skarsgard, and Henrik Vanger, by veteran character-actor Christopher Plummer are very interesting to watch as well. Christopher Plummer's role was restricted to the beginning part of the movie when he was talking to Mikael about her missing family member and showing him around the house, but that was enough to entice the audience with the troubled background of the Vanger family.

Unfortunately for Stellan Skarsgard, since I read the book and watched the first movie, I instantly knew his role when he was introduced as Martin Vanger. His cool appearance and initial warm response towards Mikael was well-acted to set up the sheep skin for his character, and even though I knew what he was going to do in the end, his calm delivery of perhaps the most chilling speech of all the dialogues in the entire movie during that torture scene was very haunting.

That scene was very weird too in my opinion, as it was coupled with Enya's "Orinoco Flow", one of my all-time favorite songs at the beginning. ^^




Besides story-telling and character portrayal as mentioned above, the music used in this movie is amazing. ^^ Cold and haunting is how I would describe the overall music arrangement in many scenes. Some dialogue-heavy scenes would use some chilling electronic music as its background music, which sounded almost like some folks are gearing up for some kind of battles, but it's just two people talking to each others. ^^ You can hear some of that music in the trailer at the beginning of this posting. In certain scenes, usually the ones that feature just one actor, there would be no music at all, which keeps the audience focused on the character and the story.



The violence is really ramped up in this "American" version. While the sexual abuse scene involving Lisbeth is in both movies, and are equally disturbing and uncomfortable to watch through, the narrative of the historical cases pertaining to the two main characters' investigation is a lot more graphic in nature I think. The violence portrayed is realistic and consistent throughout the movie, not so much as to annoy the audience, but it is there. I like violent, bloody and gory movies, and had reviewed some in the past, like "Outpost" (2008) and (especially) "Darah" (2009), I just didn't expect a detective movie could be made to be this violent. ^^;




Overall, David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is most certainly a great movie. It's fully of drama and interesting dialogue for its story, convincing performance for the different characters from the cast members and awesome music that can entice the audience in slow scenes with very little action. ^^ Speaking as someone who had read the original novel and watched the first 2009 movie before checking out this version, it's definitely good enough to stand as an amazing watch in its own right.