Saturday, 31 December 2011

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

 Floating somewhere between a horror film and a thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo centres on two main characters; freelance journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and brilliantly talented outcast hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). At the start of the film Mikael, who has just been disgraced in a libel case, is asked by elderly businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to write his biography; however, this is really only a pretext so that Blomkvist can look into the forty-year-old disappearance of Vanger's niece Harriet (Moa Garpendal) whom he suspects was murdered by a member of his sprawling and discordant family.

After enjoying considerable success with last year's The Social Network, David Fincher looks set to continue to enthrall cinemagoers with his particular cool brand of fast-paced investigative filmmaking. While his films are all great stand-alone pieces, each with unique features, they are all stamped with the Fincher style. Investigative is a word which pops up again and again with regard to Fincher; he seems drawn to films which present a puzzle, mysteries needing to be solved, and true stories needing to be told (such as Zodiac and The Social Network). In the future it is probable he will be referred to as an auteur, but for now he is simply the go-to director for cool complex thrillers with a dark and unusual bite to them.

Music is also a key feature of many of Fincher's films (he started out directing music videos) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is no exception. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who won an Oscar for their work on The Social Network, here reprise their role as original composers, furnishing Dragon Tattoo with a harsh, industrial soundtrack which listens like a darker and less forgiving version of their earlier oscar winning work (it seems likely that they will receive another nomination in 2012).

In fact, most things about Dragon Tattoo are a little darker than the work Fincher has been delivering of late, but it was clear that the director of murderous beauties like Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac would not long be satisfied with such subdued films as The Social Network (and the less said about Benjamin Button the better). Dragon Tattoo is a return to Fincher's favoured 'real life' horror cinema. It is the English language version of Stieg Larsson's bestselling Swedish novel, the first in his Millennium Trilogy (The books have also been made into very successful Swedish films, part of the reason why they are now being remade in English). Larsson wrote the trilogy in his spare time, and died of a heart attack in 2004 with all three still unpublished.

When the book was first published in Swedish it was titled 'Men Who Hate Women', and watching the film it's easy to see why. While never gory, Dragon Tattoo is certainly unflinching in its portrayal of violence; it has an 18 certificate and, despite all the snow it features, is not a good choice for your 2011 Christmas movie (stick with Happy Feet 2 for that one). This film is always uncompromising and never dull; an exciting investigative thriller, masterfully executed by all involved. Room has been left for the sequels, but whether these will be in the hands of Fincher or another director remains to be seen.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a KINOLENS Film of the Moment and is on general release in the UK.

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