Who's that girl?

- Ramon De Veyra -

MANILA, Philippines - Director David Fincher initially hesitated to accept the job of directing the new film adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and it’s understandable. The bestselling book, the first of Stieg Larsson’s millennium trilogy, had already been made into a well-regarded film in Sweden. He also worried about dipping his toe once again into “serial killer” territory, a field he’d mined very well in the outstanding Se7en and Zodiac. It was a meeting with the Sony Studios heads, including Amy Pascal, that swayed him. They said they wanted to produce the first truly adult film franchise. Not “adult” as in pornographic, but “adult” as in subject matter, complexity of situations and relationships, and the treatment of such.

The result is now playing in theaters, and it’s another feather on Fincher’s cap. His customary visual sensibility is perfect for the tale of an unlikely pairing between a disgraced investigative journalist (played by Daniel Craig) and a punk-looking, pierced researcher (Rooney Mara in a breakout performance). Despite their own personal problems, they team up to investigate a decades-old disappearance, uncovering more foul crimes that may be related. It has some of the best “research montage” scenes, outdoing even Fincher’s previous work. There is a palpable sense of gloom and isolation befitting the story and locale (the wintry north of Sweden). There are brutal, shocking scenes, as well as quiet, contemplative ones. Even the occasional joke. All eyes, of course, are on Rooney Mara, who, as the titular heroine, delivers a taut, controlled performance. The change in her look from her last, most visible role in Fincher’s The Social Network is remarkable, but it fully supports and informs her character. She goes through some pretty brutal treatment in the film at the hands of some misogynists, but gives as good as she gets.

Daniel Craig plays disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

At one point in the film, the serial killer says, “This takes discipline. It’s a science of a thousand details. The planning. The execution.” He could have well been talking about Fincher himself. The fastidiousness of the director is well-known in the film industry, from doing numerous takes (sometimes passing 100) to wanting elements just so, such as using the old ‘70s Paramount logo for the ‘70s-set Zodiac, and getting celebrated ‘70s film composer David Shire out of retirement to score it. He’s not afraid of big decisions as well, from selecting Mara to play the lead though more well-known actresses (including Scarlett Johansson) had auditioned, to replacing the original cinematographer of Girl… after eight weeks (!) of shooting with his Social Network and Fight Club cohort Jeff Cronenweth (now rightfully Oscar-nominated for his work). He’s found equally exacting collaborators in Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, who return from their Oscar win for The Social Network to score this latest, their work a moody, tense collage with ebbs and flows that match the story. Reznor and Ross worked on the score for over a year, and produced a soundtrack that stretches across three CDs and totals 174 minutes, longer than the film itself.

Fincher’s protective of his work, and with that attention to detail you can see why he’d rather his vision be preserved than compromised, so when India’s film censors wouldn’t allow an uncut version of the film to be released, the studio stood by Fincher and just decided that it would then not be released in India. Thankfully, we don’t have that problem, and have the opportunity to see the latest work from a director whose perfectionism would give Swiss watchmakers a run for their money.

The duo make for an unlikely pair, but that’s part of the charm, part of why it works wonderfully.










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