8. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (R) - 158 minutes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer
Director: David Fincher
It's no secret that I'm a huge, huge fan of David Fincher. I think he's one of the top five directors in Hollywood and he certainly hasn't made a bad movie. In fact, he's been consistently churning out good, if not great, movies for the past 16 years, pretty much his whole directing career. It's quite sad that Tom Hooper has won a directing Oscar the only time he's been nominated and Fincher's only been nominated twice and never won. But I digress - this is about one of the best book to movie adaptations I've seen.
Being a huge fan of the book series, it comes as no surprise that I've enjoyed both the Swedish adaptation and the American. However, in a rare moment, I believe the American version is a lot better than its Swedish counterpart. The Swedish movie tried really, really hard to be faithful to the book, but I felt the movie was hard to follow (especially if you haven't read the book) and tried to cram in as much detail and information as possible with no regard to movie structure. It's not bad, it's just that David Fincher has shown he can do it better. The pacing and tone of the movie is more in line with the book. There's just a sinister feel to the movie - it keeps growing and growing until the finale. It's a testament to how Fincher approaches a movie and the subject matter is well-suited for his style. Plus he found a fantastic cast.
Rooney Mara delivers an amazing performance as a complicated heroine figure who isn't a very typical leading lady. It's not a surprise she got nominated for an Oscar - she's as close to the fictional Lisbeth Salander as you can get. Mara is at times capable of being extremely victimized one moment to unleashing her own hell the next. And on top of that, she's weirdly sexual. I wouldn't go so far as to say she's sexy (maybe to some), but there's just something exotic about her character and Mara has completely immersed herself into the role. As for the rest of the cast - Daniel Craig is a perfect fit for the role of the outcast journalist and Christopher Plummer plays a troubled old man who's haunted by the past. SPOILER ALERT: But the other standout cast member is Stellan Skarsgård. He plays the villain and is brilliant - a man who is one of the vilest serial killers put to screen. Although you only hear about what he's done, which I think is even more revolting that actually seeing it. There's an amazing scene where he has a victim and is about to start torturing them when he decides to play some music. Instead of some tame classical piece, it's Enya's "Sail Away" blaring through the speakers. It's one of greatest little twists in the movie but it totally fit the scene. It provided a stark contrast to what we're imagining is going to happen to the poor soul. END OF SPOILER.
I didn't think I was going to enjoy this movie when it first started - there's a bizarre opening credit sequence that's completely CGI. It's probably one of the more grotesque scenes and felt out of touch with the rest of the movie. But thankfully, the movie settled down after that and had me entranced, even though I knew the story well enough to know what would happen next. And that's the power of this movie - it's captivating and riveting from beginning to end. Fincher knows how to pace a movie and build to its inevitable conclusion.
They've announced that they will be moving forward with the next two installments in the series and I can only hope Fincher is on board again. I believe the next two books are much, much better than the first and if they do get made, they really should film them together because they're so intricately tied to one another. And I wouldn't be surprised if you find the next two films on my end of year list as well.