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Spielberg and Fincher: Taming Creatures

WWI gets Spielberg’d; Fincher’s new girl in town

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is hardly a personal project. Still, David Fincher's sveltely malevolent remake of the 2009 Swedish blockbuster directed by Niels Arden Oplev from Stieg Larsson's rambling thriller, a posthumously published international bestseller and Kindle record-holder, is a recognizably Fincherian caper. The movie, which opens with a bit of Led Zeppelin grandiosity (covered by Karen O) and a credit sequence of scary satanic rubber- fetish ickiness, has a pleasingly dialectical place in the Fincher oeuvre, synthesizing aspects of his previous two features, the serial-killer procedural Zodiac and the computer-nerd biopic The Social Network.

Set in a freeze-your-blood land of streamlined chrome, steely dawns, and gleaming black-and-silver nocturnes, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo follows a cold trail of ritually butchered women through rural Sweden; these previously unlinked crimes have been discovered as part of an investigation conducted by lefty reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). This grim do-gooder's career was earlier upended by the billionaire corporate crook whom his reporting failed to bring down, and he has been hired on the rebound by another Swedish oligarch, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer channeling Max von Sydow), to solve a murder.

Beggaring the Kennedy assassination or the crime at the heart of Blow-Up in its wealth of photographic evidence, this killing was committed some 45 years ago apparently by one Vanger family member against another. Alternately dashed and dashing, Blomkvist is a standard-issue wounded crusader but, as millions of earthlings know, the movie's real protagonist is his ace research assistant, Lisbeth Salander. The eponymous asocial goth-punk-pierced-lesbo hacker supreme, she's played here by neophyte Rooney Mara, best known until now as the Boston University co-ed who called Mark Zuckerberg an asshole five minutes into The Social Network, and it's her pale flame that illuminates the movie.

Details

The War Horse
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Touchstone
Opens December 25

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Directed by David Fincher
Sony Pictures
Opens December 21

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Steven Zaillian's script pushes Larsson's narrative, originally set at the close of the 20th century, toward the present moment. It's a bit late in the day to take seriously the guilty secret of Sweden's Nazi sympathizers, but amateur torture theater is a perennial movie kick. The novel (originally and pointedly titled Men Who Hate Women by its Trotskyist author) is basically a tale about brutalized females and a fantasy of feminist retaliation. Fincher gets with the program, as when Salander handily dispatches a mugger or, after being grossly abused by her sadistic legal guardian, coolly stages a counter rape of absolute vengeance and then goes out clubbing. (Still, as a polished professional and an equal-opportunity entertainer, the director—once down in the basement of terror—can't help but dote a bit on the male pathology Larsson abhors, framing the ultimate villain as if he, like the Zodiac killer, were the movie's secret star.)

The dour spirit of merriment in this clammy universe, Mara's elfin Salander is not exactly a carbon copy of the spiky-haired menace that Noomi Rapace played in the Oplev movie. She's funnier, as well as more plaintive, in her deadpan aplomb. (And once her cockscomb mohawk gives way to a less off-putting coif, she seems more playful, her outfit taking on the feel of a store-bought Halloween costume.) Nor is Fincher's Tattoo a shot-by-shot, or even a scene-by-scene, recap of Oplev's dowdier production. The remake is an altogether leaner, meaner, more high-powered, stylish, and deftly directed affair, though similarly hampered by a too-long narrative fuse.

Running 158 minutes, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo requires over an hour for Blomkvist's story to converge with Salander's and, though things do pick up once reporter and hacker begin pursuing parallel research tracks (as well as each other), it grossly overstays its welcome. Where the shudder-inducing Zodiac, and even The Social Network, resisted closure, Dragon Tattoo persists in pursuing three separate endings and, by the time they wrap, the movie is less a walk on the wild side than an evening stroll through a well-lit topiary garden.

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16 comments
DebNY4
DebNY4

"A dumb brute" That's as cynical as one can get.

Genesisranch1
Genesisranch1

You're an idiot who knows nothing about horses and little about humanity!

Fantom50
Fantom50

You are absolutely much to full of yourself. So much so that your brain doesn't comprehend the obvious. Find a new job. You are very annoying.

Bret
Bret

Good grief...did someone get a new thesaurus for Christmas?

Stephanie Clark Pires
Stephanie Clark Pires

I guess I would say I like your review, but I disagree with your point of view. I enjoyed the movie and I feel that anti-war sentiment, given the current climate of the world, needs to be repeated again and again. I loved it. Although your points about Spielberg, etc. border on the haterish, I feel your entitled to your opinion, I just disagree.

L Smith
L Smith

Completely agree with the review. Such improbable events. Way overrated. Once again, I fell for the pre release hype.

Gordonjungwirth
Gordonjungwirth

'Couldn't disagree with this review more. Having read the book, but too poor to see the play and too far removed in flyover country, I was impressed by the film adaptation. It was accessible to a general American audience while also pushing us to consider the unspeakably horrifying costs of war for soldiers- both human and animal alike- as well as civilians. In a culture that all too often glorifies violence and portrays war in triumphant fashion, this film illustrates the vulnerability that defines us and evokes our humanity, even amid the darkest circumstances of battle. Applause to all who worked on and supported a story that attests to the animal and human costs of war.

Vogt_v
Vogt_v

Sorry, but once you called the horse a "dumb brute", you became exactly like those characters in the movie that didn't care at all about the horses but forced them to pull the guns until they died.Until that point, you had a good review. Those 2 words make us realize how evil you are.

DM
DM

"Taming Creatures" Are you referring to the horse - and a woman as these creatures? Not cool at all.

dredge
dredge

When Spielberg turned Kubrics tragic story into a happy ending I gave up on this guy. He's dishonest.

Yngwie F Malmsteen
Yngwie F Malmsteen

Do some fucking research, the Immigrant Song cover is by Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross w/ vocals by Karen O.

Wataru
Wataru

Why? It's a horse and it certainly can't speak, so "dumb brute" is both an apt description free of cynicism and probably an arch reference to "Moby Dick".

Genesisranch1
Genesisranch1

Liked ur comments except I hated the entire review. Someone thinks he's intellegent, but the only thing he actually shows is his a**. Disgusting!

Turk
Turk

... it does to a(nother) fincher/reznor yupster fanboy, and always will.i love it; a (history) term-paper like distillation on spielberg's piece AND comparative analysis of a twice produced cinematic adaptation of an internationally acclaimed work of (admittedly) lithe, sensationalist, and-therefore-already-discussed-to-death fiction... but yeah, git yer almighty lord reznor facts straight, you dumb fucking culturally retarded pig you.what was that michael haneke quote about "if someone must adapt my work for the americans, can't theaters just hire a famous band to both play and read the subtitles out loud, and leave my film untouched?".

 

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