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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

by on 2012/05/10

“I’m quickly losing track of who’s who here.”

* *

Everywhere I go I see these freaking, freakish videos. If it’s not the theatrical European version, it’s the television cuts, shorter or extended, on DVD or Blu-ray, each of them sold separately or grouped in various sets.

And then there’s this one, the David Fincher take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), a different, and lesser, interpretation my esteemed co-reviewer assures me.

I’m hit or miss on Fincher as a director, and I tend toward his less popular efforts: Alien 3, The Game, and Zodiac. I’m not as big a fan of Fight Club, The Panic Room, or Seven which, admittedly, might have to do with their ruthless effectiveness.

Daniel Craig, who seems inadvertently to have featured in damn near all the movies I’ve seen recently, plays a disgraced journalist who didn’t check his facts before reaching a published conclusion. In a mostly separate parallel thread, Rooney Mara (The Social Network) manifests the pains of a relentlessly downtrodden yet oddly unsympathetic hacker. Eventually they cooperate to help each other out.

At first I noted things like the geography, local trivia, and the quality of performances from stalwarts like Christopher Plummer (The Silent Partner) and Stellan Skarsgard (Thor), but I couldn’t find my footing. Considering it’s more drama than action, the narrative really races.

Packed with detail, and cut sprintingly fast, I struggled to reconcile the pace with a running time closing in on three hours. Ironically I have rarely, if ever, been so bored and uninvested. Mysterious disappearances, skeletons in a family’s closet, graphic sexual assaults, and scenes of jaw-clenching violence . . . how did it ever get so paradoxically glacial, distant, cold, and slow?

I enjoyed limited aspects, usually in isolation. For example, the visuals. Though I didn’t think they gelled together, I admired the constituent parts. While the main credits sequence was interesting, it looked slicker than anything else, what Gru decided was Fincher’s attempt to audition for a James Bond job.

I appreciated the use of colour palettes to demarcate environments: shadowy blues for corporate settings, rich earth tones in some homes, and stark antiseptic whites and light wood grains in others. However, I felt only disconnects when transitioning between them, hiccups jarring enough to distract from the plot.

So much for the sights. What about the sounds? Here is my single compliment: I like the work of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. As an aficionado of Nine Inch Nails since 1990’s Pretty Hate Machine, it’s good to hear something appropriate without losing what I loved way back when.

Unfortunately, everything else is a muddy mess. The mix — at least on the disc I bought — was an unmitigated disaster, perhaps the greatest threat of all to enjoying the experience. More than the usual “music is too loud”, effects and dialogue were actually audible, but garbled to the extent that captioning was a practical necessity. Which, in turn, brought up an ancillary issue. The subtitles didn’t match the spoken words very well, an audio-visual disconnect as damning as slipping synch.

By the end I was left still baffled by its phenomenal success. I’m not ashamed to admit I do not get it. Both the character and her vehicle, make it difficult, nearly impossible, to appreciate either one. Two stars are what I generally give to something wasting my time, just about right for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

* *

Rated 18A (Canada) / R (United States)

158 minutes

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