REVIEW: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

1 01 2012

Dragon TattooWhile on the path to triumphant Oscar glory last year, Aaron Sorkin made the wise observation that no matter what movie he chose to do next, it would always be seen as “the movie after ‘The Social Network.’” The same could be said for director David Fincher, snubbed of a much-deserved Oscar for a movie he clearly crafted with an intricate and delicate precision. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is no different as Fincher’s immaculate visual sensibilities dazzle the eye consistently for over two and a half hours; however, it suffers because of its placement in the director’s canon.

Had it preceded the masterpiece rather than succeeded it, there would probably be a river of praise flowing about his adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s international bestseller. But the specter of Mark Zuckerberg lurks insidiously like an elephant in the theater, making any viewer familiar with Fincher’s work consistently aware of the fact that something is keeping the movie from being truly great. Never is there that sense of jaw-dropping, mind-blowing state of total awe that the director has inspired so many times in his previous features. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” may be his first movie that fails to live up to the promise of its trailer. (To be fair, Fincher’s movies always seem to have the BEST trailers.)

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to marvel at in the movie. The story is incredibly engaging, and it gets a great visceral charge from Steven Zaillian’s faithful script and Fincher’s knack for palatable sadism. Taking a 700-page book and compressing into a single movie is no simple task, and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is particularly dense on the page with its labyrinthine family structures, concurrent narrative arcs, and taut mystery. Whether it came from Zaillian in the writing or Fincher with editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall in the cutting room, the pacing is a marvel of control, never bloated or convoluted. The 158 minutes go by very quickly as the plot moves along at a nice, even clip.

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