Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Girl With the Tramp Stamp Tattoo

After a movie industry lull between late October and early December, where there were very few movies released that I actually wanted to see, I was excited when The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came out on December 20. I wasn’t too familiar with the story (I had never read the novel by Stieg Larsson, nor did I see the Swedish version of the film); nonetheless, I bought into the hoopla, media campaign, and general excitement that surrounded the film.

I saw the film over the holiday season and my local AMC Theater was packed. There’s something about the communal experience of seeing a film that makes it all the better; in fact, that's why I love going to the movies after all these years. I’m not going to delve too much into the plot (visit imdb.com if you want those details), but I will tell you what I liked, or didn’t like, about the movie.

First and foremost, the cast was superb. Daniel Craig was more than adequate as Mikael Blomkvist, but the real star of the show was Rooney Mara as the girl with the dragon tattoo, Lisbeth Salander. You may remember Mara for her bit role in the Social Network as Mark Zuckerburg’s girlfriend in the opening scene of that film. Director David Fincher, who also directed the Social Network, must have seen a diamond in the rough . . . and he was right.

Mara, who usually appears wholesome and somewhat innocent, transformed herself for the title role, morphing into a pale, emo, self-admittedly insane investigator. There is something disturbing about Mara’s character that is also strangely attractive (as many of the characters in the film find out). The gratuitous sex scenes (minus a disconcerting rape scene), which reveals as much of Mara as any man could hope, were certainly a nice touch. This will no doubt prove to be Mara’s breakout role and establish her as a major actress in Hollywood. She very well could get an Oscar nomination for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but if not, it’ll be only a matter of time before she takes home a statue.

I also enjoyed the performances of Stellan Skarsgård and Christopher Plummer. The former plays Martin Vanger and was stellar as always. I’ve been a Skarsgård fan for a while, most notably for his roles in Deep Blue Sea and as Bootstrap Bill in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. He tows the line between sympathetic and menacing as well as anyone could, and he displays that well in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

In regards to Plummer, if there was a Hollywood illuminati, he would be a charter member. The man is a remarkable actor and only gets better with age. Unfortunately, his role as Henrik Vanger was quite limited and he was only onscreen for about 20 minutes of the film’s 158-minute run time. With that said, he lit up the screen during that time as an ailing businessman looking for closure on a mysterious disappearance 40 years in the making.

The acting was only the tip of the iceberg as far as things going for this film. The story was compelling, complete with a surprise ending (though a clever man, much like myself, could figure it out, which I did). It takes a lot to keep my attention for two and a half hours, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did just that. The visuals were great, with the various locations in Sweden were nothing short of exquisite (the movie was filmed during Sweden’s coldest winter in 20 years). Rumor has it they want to convert Larsson’s other two books to the big screen, and if this first film is any indication, that’s a great idea.

In conclusion, if you’re looking to go to the movies for a good thriller/mystery, look no further than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. While it has little replay value, as is the case with most any mystery/thriller, it is well worth the price of admission and one of the better movies I’ve seen in the latter half of 2011. 

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 90%

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