The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011, US Version) ~ Fire & Ice

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard

I LOVED this movie!!  Having not read Stieg Larsson‘s book, nor yet seen the Swedish adaptation of the movie, I was in virgin territory here…and found it entirely engrossing and entertaining from beginning to end.  I was concerned that at 2 hours, 38 minutes it would feel too long, but it didn’t.  At ALL.  The pacing is perfect, building with a steady intensity (and ferocity) to a point where the suspense and tension become almost unbearable, in only the best sense of the word.

I was expecting to be startled out of my skin at every moment in the lead-up to the climax.  I’m not even sure I “connected all the dots” (there are a lot of players and details of which to keep track and I lacked the background knowledge that reading the book surely would have provided me), but I understood enough to thoroughly appreciate the ride as well as the conclusion.

The film is gorgeously shot and framed ~ clean, sleek, sharp and crisp ~ just like the chilly, icy Swedish landscapes in which it takes place.  And yet there is heat generated throughout by the consistently talented Daniel Craig, playing the smart and (at least here) sexy journalist Mikael Blomkvist.  Craig’s clear blue eyes are as striking as ever and his body is in top form ~ he looks as though he should be modeling every article of clothing he dons (whether a sweater and scarf, flannel pajamas or even bikini briefs) in a magazine.  So there’s the guilty pleasure of that eye candy on top of the across-the-board great acting and intriguing story…

Rooney Mara is utterly magnetic as Lisbeth Salander, the razor sharp detective/computer hacker Blomkvist employs to assist him in solving the murder mystery he has been assigned.  I couldn’t take my eyes off her anytime she was on screen ~ and whether or not I was supposed to, I sympathized with her from the outset and increasingly so throughout.  (She wordlessly broke my heart at the film’s end.)  She is mysterious, alluring, fiercely contained, a somewhat androgynous bi-sexual ~ a fascinating, and multi-layered character.  Mara completely and convincingly transforms herself INTO the role ~ she becomes Lisbeth.  I have great respect for her performance here ~ as contained as it is, much about her character is revealed.

Conversely, I was left feeling there was much more to know about Mikael’s character.  I wanted to understand more of his inner workings and motivations (by contrast, Lisbeth’s are much clearer and more obvious).  For instance, are his feelings for her genuine?  Or merely a convenience?  What motivates the choices he makes in regards to relationships?  (Perhaps all of these questions are answered in the book…)  What I can say unequivocally is that the chemistry between Lisbeth and Mikael (or maybe more accurately, between Craig & Mara) is palpable, if not entirely earned.

The phenomenal opening credit sequence deserves a special mention.  It is akin to a surreal, mercurial, grotesque, yet gorgeous music video set to Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross‘s incredible revamping of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”.  It is an extraordinary work of art in and of itself, an audio-visual waterfall that washes over you completely.  See for yourself:

Everything about the movie sets the perfect tone ~ from the locations and sets (the sleek, stylish, contemporary home of Skarsgard’s character Martin is a stand-out) to the fabulous costumes and make-up.  I got lost in it all.  And loved every second of it.  For a film of this scope, I think Fincher created a masterpiece.  I can’t wait to see it again (alongside all the juicy DVD extras) so that I don’t miss a thing.  This was a fantastically satisfying movie experience all-around!

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