A fiery “Dragon”

Nothing went as planned this Christmas. The Sound of Music aired on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. I put off all my present wrapping until the last minute, only to discover one of the books I swear I bought for my dad (Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland) was not in my shopping bag, nor was the receipt for said book, leaving me to conclude the bookseller didn’t actually ring up the book when I took it along with my myriad of purchases to the cash wrap. This then led to a frantic phone call to the Barnes and Nobel at Westwood Village in West Seattle, in which I proceeded to read off every single book on my dad’s list (there were over ten) and none of them were in stock. However, the Northgate store did have a copy of History of Ireland, so we stopped on our way up to dinner to get it. Oh, and the power went out at my parents house yesterday, meaning we had to schlepp Christmas dinner back to my house.

The only thing that went right was I made it to the theatre to see Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander and Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist

For those of you who have avoided all things Stieg Larsson, Tattoo is the story of disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and “investigator” Lisbeth Salander, trying to uncover the answers behind a decades-old disappearance and possible murder. I enjoyed the book, loved the Swedish version of the movie, and was very much looking forward to the English language version.

It did not disappoint. The movie focused just as much on Blomkvist as much as Salander, which is as it should be, because that’s how the first book was. Extraneous noise was cut, the ending was changed slightly (the one thing I didn’t like) and the opening title sequence, set against Trent Reznor and Karen O’s “The Immigrant Song” was very James Bond-y and completely awesome.

Bond himself, Daniel Craig, did a more than passable job as Blomkvist, although his attempts at a Swedish accent failed after the first few scenes. The way he had Blomkvist wandering around with his reading glasses half on, half off was very much how I’d imagined him in the book. Christopher Plummer was fun to watch as Henrik Vanger, the family patriarch, they got a real life Swede (Stellan Skarsgard) to play Martin Vanger, and a real life Croatian (Goran Visnjic) to play Dragan Armansky.

I smell an Oscar repeat for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for their score (and it was fun to see a NIN shirt pop up on one of Lisbeth’s hacker friends). Just because Reznor’s taking a break from creating supremely outstanding creepy music with Nine Inch Nails doesn’t mean he’s gone soft. The score was haunting and yes, creepy, in all the right places. They actually managed to do a few happier sounding pieces for the few happy scenes in the film, and the music, combined with the snow-laden backdrop of northern Sweden, heightened the sense of unease that permeated the movie.

But just like the Swedish version, this is really about Salander and the girl who plays her. I’d never have thought based on the few scenes she had in The Social Network that Rooney Mara would have been the best choice for the film, although I was very pleased to hear that when casting was being done they were bypassing the big name actresses (Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson were two names being thrown about) in favor of a lesser-known actress.

But Mara is mesmerizing. She certainly looks the part, with her multiple piercings, bleached out eyebrows, and jet-black hair cut all willy-nilly. Her accent was one of the few that was spot on the entire time. But she sank into this role, playing Salander with an economy of movement, of words, of emotion, leaving you with an image that was at once so similar and so unlike the original film character that there was no way you could compare Mara with Noomi Rapace and say who was better.

And the Enya song? You’ll have this horrific urge to laugh. Go ahead, the rest of the audience will be as well.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is now playing nationwide.

*image via Columbia Pictures

2 thoughts on “A fiery “Dragon”

  1. It’s certainly worth seeing if you missed the original. If you saw it, however, there’s no way of unseeing it, and nothing in the new one to top it. Craig and Mara are great here though and Fincher brings so much more to this film like I was expecting too. Good review. Check out mine when you can.

    1. I have seen the original, and that would be my one other (minor) complaint-I felt like I’d already seen the movie. But I do agree, it’s well worth seeing anyway.

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