One of the many arts that have been on decline in filmmaking is the art of creating main titles sequences. Even though once in a while a notable main title sequence will appear, for the most part it seems filmmakers do not place much importance on them. The main reason why I hold main titles as a crucial element in the overall cinematic experience is because I believe they not only set the mood for what’s to come, but they also present so many possibilities for artistic creativity. To this day the absolute best main titles sequence, in my opinion, is in David Fincher’s Se7en and I’ve always been anxiously waiting for his next film that would attempt to recreate that twisted magic. That next film is none other than one of the most anticipated films of the year and after watching its main titles sequence I knew that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was on its way to become one of the best film of the 2011.
After Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is found guilty for the false allegations in a recent story of his involving a millionaire businessman named Wennerström, he is hired by another wealthy albeit semi-retired businessman by the name Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Blomkvist new assignment, which he takes much to the dismay of his co-editor and lover Erika Berger (Robin Wright), is to investigate a 40 year old mystery in the Vanger family. Henrik’s niece Harriot disappeared when she was 16 and Henrik has spend years trying to find out what happened to her, but more specifically who among the Vanger family killed her. As the investigation unravels and becomes even more complicated, Blomkvist asks to hire a research assistant and the suggested one is a researcher named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) who was hired to do the background check on Blomkvist before he was hired. Together they’ll solve this four-decade-old mystery and uncover many more skeletons hidden in the Vanger family.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is in some respects a return to the film that kick started David Fincher brilliant career: Se7en. Much like Se7en, this one feature the pairing of two unlikely people solving a murder mystery drenched with violent, graphic and psychotic elements, and it features the best main titles sequence I have seen in years. Opening the film with Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Karon O’s revamped version of Immigrant Song, these main titles perfectly set the mood for what’s to come and the mood is purely sinister fun. They feature a petroleum-like liquid that morphs into different figures raging from crows to the actors faces to other grotesque and distorted shapes. As the song progresses and became more frantic so did the images and the various shapes would clash with each other or grab each other as if they were experiencing a psychotic fit. That blend of darkly energetic music and darkly disturbing images blew me away so much that after it ended I said aloud, “that was fucking awesome!” And that reaction was sustain for the entirety of the film as David Fincher once again proved why he is one of the greatest filmmakers in history.
Even though I enjoy and in some instances love David Fincher’s films that on the surface are light, like Benjamin Button and The Social Network, I’ve always preferred his darker ones. Fincher is one of those directors that can present dark themes and imagery unlike anyone else, and it is because of his unique style that I felt from the very beginning that his version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo would be completely different from the Swedish version. Yes, both films are essentially telling the same story but Fincher and writer Steven Zaillian reshape and introduce new elements that make their version feel distinctive. In here the position of protagonist is equally divided between Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, and because of the budget in this one things are explored much more than they were in the Swedish version. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Fincher’s film is a remake, his film is an adaptation of the book and it is by far one of the most impressive adaptations I’ve seen.
One of the elements that I really enjoyed from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was how fast it moved. This is a film one has to really pay attention to, especially if one is unfamiliar with the story, as things moved rapidly and if you don’t catch up the film will leave you behind. The editing in this film equals the brilliant and Oscar nominated editing in The Social Network, and I would be very surprised if this one didn’t receive a nomination as well. It is amazing to witness how flawlessly and effortlessly Salander and Blomkvist paths are intercut in the film, they blend with each other so perfectly and at no point do you feel lost or confused. The editing is what initially establishes their relationship and showcases how these two seemingly distinctive individuals are in fact very much alike. The relationship between these two characters is further enhanced by the Craig and Mara’s brilliant performances.
Everyone involved in the film gives a great performance, but the two standouts are by far Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. Daniel Craig has managed to achieve something I didn’t think he could, he has finally accurately captured the essence of the every-man. Craig has an image of James Bond, an image of a larger than life star and as a result sometimes what one predominantly sees in his films is simply Craig playing a character instead of just the character. In here, Craig accurately becomes Mikael Blomkvist who is for all intents and purposes an ordinary man. It’s incredible to see how Craig adopts new mannerism ranging from tone of voice to simple facial gestures to body language and creates a full flesh character that feels real, that doesn’t feel like this bigger than life entity that probably doesn’t exist. Something that really surprised me about his performance as well was how humorous his character is and I really like that Craig was able to inject a sort of playful undertone to Blomkvist, which made him standout from the rest. His performance here in a way calls back his amazing performance in Layer Cake and I admire how brilliantly Craig redefines Blomkvist.
Rooney Mara is, of course, the one piece of the pie we’ve all been wanting and waiting to feast our eyes into. There is a reason why David Fincher was so forceful in having the studios approve on the casting of Rooney Mara, he knew she would do the character justice. To call her performance absolutely majestic would be a huge understatement as she manages to create a Lisbeth Salander that is completely her own while also providing us with a faithful rendition of the character from the book. Every time Mara is on screen she completely draws you in and becomes the sole focus of our attention. There is something exponentially endearing about her distinctive physique, wardrobe and more importantly her eyes. Mara conveys so many emotion and thoughts with such subtle gestures that the more you look at her the more things you discover. I really loved that Fincher opted to feature Salander more prominently in the film and that he introduced scenes which presented a different side to Salander, a much more humanistic and sweet side. Those unexpected inclusions allowed Mara’s performance to feel more fleshed out and far more realistic.
Last year, Fincher’s The Social Network featured one of the best scores in recent memory by two artists that I love: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. They’ve teamed up once again for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the results are equally brilliant. Just as it was the case with The Social Network, the score’s power and genius elements truly surface once you’ve seen them alongside the images in the film. Reznor and Ross again managed to craft a score that perfectly fits with the overall themes and surroundings in the film. In a recent interview Fincher said that during his discussions with Reznor and Ross about the score, they were attempting to figure out how ice and snow sound like. Those two things for me evoke isolation and an undercurrent of tension, and the score brilliantly conveys those feelings alongside terror, tragedy and in some surprising instances a sort fairy tale-like sounds. Much like everything else in the film, this score is full fleshed out and works perfectly to set the mood and enhance everything that touches within the film. This score is a brilliant achievement for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and proves that lighting does strike twice.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has been a film I’ve been anticipating since it was announced last year and even though my expectation have grown tenfold since then, I’m in awe of the fact that it was managed to surpass them on every level. David Fincher has once again assembled a brilliant film that features a lot of horrific and twisted images and themes, but also succeeds in being highly humanistic. The murder mystery of Harriot Vanger is engrossing and increasingly interesting, but it is the characters alongside the actors performances that truly carry the story and make us care. Daniel Craig gives a great, playful and at times humorous performance that has redeemed his recently lacklustre work, while Rooney Mara has blown my mind with a powerhouse performance that deserve recognition and cements her as one of the most promising young actresses working today. Their relationship is at the core of the story and thanks to their palpable chemistry, we believe and root for this seemingly unlikely pairing. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo succeeds on practically every level from fast-paced editing to eerie cinematography to Oscar-worthy score to so much more. This is an adaptation that manages to reshape some elements and introduce new ones in a way that feel true to the story, while at the same time enhance its overall greatness.
Updated Gallery With Brand New Stills from David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.