Runtime: 2 HR 38 MIN
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson, and Goran Visnjic
Video: 5 out of 5
Audio: 4 out of 5
Extras: 5 out of 5
David Fincher has directed several of my favorite films of the last twenty years but he’s had almost as many misses as he has hits. The Game, Panic Room, and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button are technically impressive films that I wouldn’t qualify as bad but I rarely feel the need to revisit. On the other hand Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac are films that I can watch repeatedly and take away something new on every viewing. Somehow I still haven’t seen The Social Network so I can’t speak to its successes or failures but I can unequivocally say that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be another Fincher film that I will visit often for years to come.
Investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has just lost a libel case for an “unflattering” article he wrote which has put him in and his publisher in financial ruin. Mikael is summoned to a meeting with Henrik Vanger, a wealthy businessman. Henrik presents him with the opportunity to investigate the suspected murder of his niece Harriet almost forty years ago. It soon becomes clear that he is in over his head and needs a second pair of eyes to piece together the mystery. Mikael’s employer puts him in contact with Lisbeth, a skilled investigator with a personality as unique as her dragon tattoo.
To describe this film as dark doesn’t do it justice. The world that Mikael and Lisbeth inhabit is bleak, filled with unsavory characters in both the past and present. Mikael’s investigation at first glance may look like the film’s main focus but it’s actually Lisbeth’s story that drives The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Her story is weaved throughout Mikael’s investigation and while that storyline is more of a procedural her story carries the emotional arc of the story. The film turns convention on its ear by making the strongest character the woman even though because of her circumstances is repeatedly victimized.
There are disturbing scenes that will make you squirm and feel uncomfortable; the flip side of that coin is that it’s riveting and those scenes payoff in spades later. Fincher never glorifies the violence, but he doesn’t shy away from it either. He lets it play out naturally and doesn’t edit away the horror; he forces you to look away by just letting the camera roll.
While I haven’t read the Stieg Larsson novels or seen the original Swedish film to compare to this film I was completely engulfed by Steve Zaillian’s script. I purposely avoided the novel and films leading up to the release of the US version so I wouldn’t be comparing and contrasting it against its other incarnations. Zaillain’s script doesn’t fall prey to the pitfalls that usually doom American adaptations such as ham-handedly explaining to the audience what the morale of the story is or tacking on a “Hollywood” ending to an otherwise good film.
David Fincher’s team has created an enveloping world that made Sweden feel like its own character. Every shot looks stunning and continues to show why Fincher has one of the best set of eyes in the industry. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ moody score blur the line between a conventional film score and something more in tune with rock music. The score is like plugging a pair of headphones into Lisbeth’s brain and listening to her internal struggle put to music.
All the performances are simply fantastic which isn’t unexpected considering what he’s been able to do with Brad Pitt (“What’s in the box!?”) Even though Daniel Craig gets top billing Rooney Mara is the star and she’s simply fantastic. As I mentioned earlier, some horrible things happen to Lisbeth’s character and she completely sold me on her portrayal by going all out in her performance. As usual Daniel Craig was very good as well; his character isn’t given as much to go through but his performance is still very good. The always great Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård also bring “A” game performances and an elder statesmen touch to the film. Christopher Plummer finally won an Academy Award this year for his role in Beginners but he could have easily won it for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as well.
This is about as close to a perfect film as you’re going to find in this day and age. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn’t for the faint of heart. You may see things that you may not want to see but this qualifies as a film where the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoois housed inside a cardboard case inside of a cardboard sleeve. I found it difficult to pull the case from the sleeve which has caused the corners of the inside case to look dented and worn. Inside the cardboard case you’ll find three discs; one Blu-ray featuring the film, a second Blu-ray with all the special features, and a third disc that is simply a DVD/UltraViolet Digital Copy. If you’re a fan of disc art you’ll love the artwork or lack thereof on the DVD copy; it simply looks like a standard Sony brand DVD-R with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sloppily written across the front which feels quite appropriate for the film
In terms of video and audio quality Sony has turned in almost a perfect disc. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was shot digitally using a combination of the Red Epic and Red One cameras. The film presentation is flawless; there’s not a trace of banding or edge enhancement and black levels are perfectly inky. None of this is a surprise since all of David Fincher films with the exception of The Game and Panic Room have received amazing transfers on Blu-ray.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless soundtrack offers up an extremely engaging experience from the moment the film begins with the James Bond-esque opening sequence. While the film isn’t overly action oriented that doesn’t mean that the surrounds channels don’t create an enveloping experience. Directionality isn’t gimmicky but everything from the busy subways to the wind whipping through the frozen woods comes alive. Dialogue is well balanced and is always intelligible which is important because if you were to miss something you could find yourself rewinding. If the soundtrack falters in any way it’s in terms of bass which I found to be overpowering. At one point I had to turn down the volume of my entire system because I was concerned about blowing my subwoofers.
Disc One’s only special feature is the audio commentary by David Fincher. He is one of the few directors I’ll listen to just for “fun.”
Disc Two houses all the other special features which are all presented in HD and unless otherwise noted contain a mix of behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew.-Characters -Salander, Lisbeth -Casting Salander
-Different in Every Way
-The Look of Salander
-Salander Test Footage -Blokvist, Mikael -Casting Blomkvist
-Daniel Craig on Film Acting
-Investigation (Stills) -Vanger, Martin -Stellan Skarsgård on Film Acting
-Wrapped in Plastic
-Set Design (Stills) -On Location -Sweden -Stockholm Syndrome
-Fuck these People
-Picture Wrap -Hollywood -Casting Armansky
-Thinking Evil Shit
-Int. Blomkvist’s Cottage
-Int. Martin’s House
-Int. Salander’s Apt. -Post-Production -In the Cutting Room
-Visual Effects Montage -Promotion -Hard Copy
-Trailers (Includes the teaser trailer and trailers 3, 4, and 5)
-TV Spots (Seven TV spots)
-Metal One Sheet
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoowas one of the best film’s of 2011 and is an early front runner for one of the best Blu-ray’s of 2012. This is a film that will take you down a very dark road but its still a trip worth making and is one of David Fincher’s best films thus far. Rooney Mara’s performance is quite frankly amazing but she is just one of many great performances in the picture. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a must see film on a near perfect Blu-ray.
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