Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Review: Two Girls One Tattoo

Rooney Mara (2011 US version) and Noomi Rapace (2009 Swedish version):
Apparently, Lisbeth Salander can only be played by actresses with "oo" in their names.
Incidentally, "OO!" is the sound viewers make when both girls punish their tormentors.

Both women pictured above are the main reason to watch either version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on Stieg Larsson's posthumously published crime thriller trilogy. Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara play Lisbeth Salander, the badass antisocial near-genius hacker who helps a journalist solve a mystery of a missing girl, and more!

The journalist is played by Michael Nyqvist in the Swedish version and by James Bond Daniel Craig in the US version that I saw last night. The plot is straightforward: a wealthy man hires a disgraced journalist to find his niece who's been missing for 40 years. The journalist then teams up with the hacker who did a background check on him for the rich dude. Together, they bring justice to all the land. Or something like that. Also, there is rape. Ugh.

Both films are shot in Sweden...and that's the end of the glaring similarities. Director David Fincher, who brought us Se7en (yay!) and Fight Club (double yay!), kicks as much ass as Lisbeth Salander with his masterful, er, directing. I found the cinematography, music, and dialogue better in the US version than in the Swedish one.

But the Swedish version by Danish director Niels Arden Oplev trumps the Fincher interpretation on two counts: casting and ending. Let's talk about the pretty people first. Noomi Rapace was supposed to be too "bulky" for the role, because Lisbeth Salander is meant to be a little peanut of a goth punk. But there's no arguing against her absolutely brilliant performance as the emotionally scarred and brutally efficient (anti)heroine. Rapace is fierce one moment and vulnerable the next, with just a flicker of her eyes. She is Lisbeth Salander. Meanwhile, Rooney Mara's performance is faultless, even brilliant. But put these two in a room together, and Rapace will be walking out of there in two seconds sucking on a Marlboro red.

Next, the pretty boys:
Daniel Craig and Michael Nyqvist:
My money's on Dan. All of it. Which is the problem.
After watching the US version last night, I pondered who would have been a better Mikael Blomkvist than Daniel Craig. We're looking for a middle-aged actor who can play a disgruntled, crusading journalist type. Johnny Depp? Mel Gibson? Ha! Ha! Ha! No, someone who's never done an action film. Um, George Clooney?

Here's the thing: tension can't exist when you've basically got James Bond running around trying to catch a murderer. I can get over him being Bond, but not when he's wearing tight sweaters or going shirtless. Sure, they minimize the abs exposure (sorry, ladies), but Michael Nyqvist in the Swedish version had the decency to have a pot belly. You don't expect that guy to outrun or outfight a crazed serial killer. You expect him to just ask a lot of hard questions. In short, he's the perfect Blomkvist. (He especially shines as an investigator in the second and third movies in the trilogy.)

The supporting cast in both versions are great. It's the casting of the main two characters that the Swedish version does better, in my opinion.

Moving on -- the ending! Holy crap, what was that? said I, after seeing the way the US ending was going...and going...and going... To avoid spoilers, let me just say that the Swedish denouement was short and sweet like sugar. I mean, if you like revenge served cold on a platter with arugula salad and pistachios. Fincher's ending was more, "Huh? Hey, why is this taking so long? Wait, what is she-- ooh. Hmmm." Sure, it humanizes our darling Lisbeth, but we like her precisely because she's so "I AM WOMAN HEAR ME HACK INTO YOUR MAC oh wait no you can't (ice cold gaze)."

Bottom line: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a great movie. I recommend watching both versions and choosing which Lisbeth Salander to admire and mentally hug / run away from.

The feel-bad movie of the season! That tagline wasn't kidding!