MOVIE RATING: 4 stars (B+)
Being that I’m 50% Swedish and that I’ve visited Sweden 3 times in my life so far (with a 4th coming in 2015), I’m always interested in movies from the homeland. Whether it’s movies set in Sweden, filmed in Sweden, about Swedes, starring Swedes, or made by Swedes. Combine that with one of my favorite directors of all time, David Fincher, and one could easily say I had “MASSIVE” expectations for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011). As my #1 Most Anticipated Movie of Fall 2011, director David Fincher’s english-language remake of the Swedish film had a lot to live up to. And it kind of didn’t initially. When I first saw the movie in the theater late last year, I was a bit disappointed. It just wasn’t exactly what I expected. I thought it lacked the extremely sharp and intelligent writing and feel of The Social Network (2010), Se7en (1995), and Fight Club (1999). Of course the acting, production design, cinematography, editing, sound, and music are all stellar and as good as any of Fincher’s finest films. But the story just didn’t grab me like those three masterpieces at first. I now see I was a bit too harsh on it. So I’ve upgraded my initial rating of 3.5 stars to 4 stars.
Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård and the rest of the supporting cast give absolutely wonderful performances. The casting was spot on. Yorick van Wageningen was an incredible discovery as the man that tortures and rapes Lisbeth Salander. As with every Fincher film, the production design is so perfectly detailed and brought to life that I felt completely like I was in Sweden (as I remember it from my trips), down to the details of the open-faced sandwiches. Donald Graham Burt is a master Production Designer, and that’s evidenced by his incredible filmography. Of course Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score is hypnotizing, surprisingly appropriate, and flat out original. I don’t know how these guys come up with their music, and how Fincher and his editing team incorporate these pieces so well, but they did it again after nailing it on The Social Network (2010).
I really can’t say enough about how beautiful and perfect the cinematography is by Jeff Cronenweth and his team. Shot entirely on Red digital cinema cameras, mostly the Red Epic, TGWTDT reminds us all why film is basically dead as the primary medium for making movies today. With the Red Epic and Arri Alexa digital cinema cameras, the imagery and dynamic range that can be captured in various lighting conditions is simply the best its ever been in the digital age. And Cronenweth really knows how to use his Red tools. You can take just about any and every frame from the movie (all 227,520 of them), and look at it as a piece of still art work.
The editing team of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall provided a technically perfect edit that seamlessly marriages dialog, visuals, sound effects, music, and graphics, but I do think TGWTDT suffers from a pacing problem in its storytelling sometimes. It stalls and lags at times, causing me to lose interest. Whether that’s an issue of writing within the screenplay from screenwriter Steven Zaillian, or an editing issue, I’m not totally sure. I haven’t seen the original Swedish movie or read the original Stieg Larsson novel, so it’s hard to say if it’s in the translation from Swedish to English, or from book to film, or if it’s just David Fincher’s style. I do think the pacing is less of an issue on repeated viewings when one knows what’s going to happen and where its going. But that’s true of most movies. Regardless, I do think this was a very successful remake of a foreign language film that brought an original approach to the material and a new style and feel to it to appeal to an American audience. I actually hope they do remake the other 2 films in the trilogy.
The teaser trailer below absolutely blew me away when I first saw it. Trent Reznor’s remake of the classic Led Zeppelin tune “Immigrant Song” was just so freaking fantastic paired with the slick imagery and fast editing, that it propelled TGWTDT to the top of my most anticipated movies list. Next to the trailer for The Tree of Life (2011), this was one of the best movie trailers last year, or any year.
Check out details on this film and its Blu-ray presentation at Blu-ray.com.