December 22, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

What's the OS for this strange tablet?

Grade: B –
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hr. 38 min.

The first installment in Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s posthumously published Millennium Trilogy is titled Män som hatar kvinnor, which translates to “Men Who Hate Women.” No description better summarizes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, now given the usually dreaded “American remake” that is spared reflexive condemnation because it is directed by David Fincher, whose career is built upon the sort of atmospheric examination of dark human impulses (Se7ven, Fight Club, Zodiac, etc.) that permeate every facet of Larsson’s nihilistic tome.

The enigmatic heart of Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo remains anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara, fearlessly stepping into Noomi Rapace’s formidable Doc Martens), the tortured, fractured product of Sweden’s misogynistic ethos. Salander is a portrait of contrasts: emotionally disturbed yet intensely intelligent; antisocial yet longing for a genuine emotional relationship; a stunning beauty who camouflages herself with piercings, black make-up, and body art.

Disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is summoned to a private island owned by the Vanger clan, a dysfunctional family of wealthy industrialists populated by ex-Nazis and sundry recluses. However, the real secret that patriarch Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) commissions Blomkvist to solve is the disappearance of his grandniece Harriet nearly four decades ago.

The hunt for Harriet quickly expands into a whodunit involving the unsolved murders of several area women, a series of Biblical-based ritual killings reminiscent of the Deadly Sins-themed slayings in Se7en. Salander, a surveillance specialist who performed Vanger’s exhaustive background check on Blomkvist, is enlisted to guide him through the procedural paces. Their research – which comprises a lot of staring at computer screens, newspaper clippings and sepia-toned photos – gives rise to a relationship that slowly strips away the barriers Salander has erected to protect herself, particularly from men.

However, despite a story that still involves killers, rapists and Nazis (oh, my!), this Girl remains as cold as its Swedish winterscape. Instead of a stylish exploration of the themes – racism, religion, politics, social class, privacy and, of course, sexism – teeming on the plot’s tawdry surface, Fincher’s rather methodical treatment of Steve Zaillian’s somnolent screenplay doesn’t extend the audacity of an ethereal opening credits sequence set to Trent Reznor’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” nor the kinkiness of a serial killer who cues up Enya’s “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” as a prelude to slaughter. Mara is terrific, but the actors frequently appear to be mechanically hitting their marks, often in conspicuous proximity to copious product placement…unless Salander’s taste for Happy Meals™ is meant to be a metaphor for emotional infantilism.

Neil Morris

No comments: