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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo(2011)
The English language imagining of Stieg Larsson's bestseller "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo". The movie follows an investigative journalist who has been hired by a wealthy industrialist to follow up on the disappearance of a family member.
For more about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray release, see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 11, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer, Steven Berkoff
Director: David Fincher
» See full cast & crew
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray Review
Nobody's perfect, but not everybody's a creep.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 11, 2012
I misjudged just how sick you are.
The fallibility of man, individualism, dark secrets, misconceptions, and all sorts of prejudices all play central to the story within The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Director David Fincher's (The Social Network) film adaptation of the novel of the same name, written by the late Stieg Larsson and first published in 2005. The story is populated with any number of characters, characters who are different "in every way" on the surface and behind the scenes alike. The story demonstrates that there are façades and then there are people, the true creatures behind the piercings, the court decisions, the titles, the positions, the wealth. The story turns convention on its head, making a hero out of a misunderstood and mistreated "social outcast" and a promiscuous middle-aged and disgraced journalist who beds married women, younger women, and older women (the latter skipped over in the film) throughout the course of the story. It makes villains of clean-cut people who are upstanding members of their communities and people charged with the delicate task of caring for those deemed to be the less fortunate or the more asocial members of society. The only two characters who are neither evil nor in any way inwardly amoral or outwardly odd spend most, or all, of the film in a sickly, frail condition. Everything in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems upside down from convention, but that's why it works so well and speaks so loudly. Life and its secrets aren't defined by the superficial; rarely is the old axiom "what your see is what you get" adhered to in the story, and rarely does it hold true in the real world, away from the fiction of the printed page and the images of the cinema screen.
Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has just been found guilty of libel, the case stemming from an unflattering article he penned in his magazine, Millennium, concerning Swedish business tycoon Hans-Erik Wennerström (Ulf Friberg). As he's packing up for an extensive leave of absence from the magazine -- choosing to leave it in the hands of co-owner and occasional lover Erika Berger (Robin Wright) -- he's contacted by Dirch Frode (Steven Berkoff), calling on behalf of his client Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a prominent Swedish industrialist. Blomkvist agrees to meet Vanger and is presented with a proposition: uncover the truth behind the mystery disappearance and presumed death of relative Harriet Vanger, who vanished without a trace forty years ago, a case that's obsessed Henrick ever since. His reward: a handsome salary and fresh dirt on Wennerström. Mikael agrees to look into the matter under the cover story that he's writing the Vanger family history. As Mikael digs into the case and uncovers long-buried truths, he comes to need a research assistant. Frode suggests the same person who investigated Mikael before he was offered the job, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a pierced and tattooed twenty-something ward of the state who has been labeled a social outcast and a person incapable of handling her own affairs. In reality, she's an expert investigator and a gifted hacker who freelances at an investigative firm. Her own very personal dealings with untoward people gives her greater purpose in the Harriet case, and her dealings with Mikael allow her to experience emotions long buried underneath her hardened exterior and difficult interior. As the truth behind Harriet's disappearance takes shape and as Mikael and Lisbeth's relationship grows, they come under fire from those who would prefer the past be left buried and the present be left undisturbed.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo superbly mixes modern social commentary and classic murder mystery, and it does so in a way never really before attempted, using the mystery to demonstrate not the absolute goodness of heroes and the undeniable evil of villains, but to prove that life is a far more complicated challenge than the righteous condoning the unrighteous, the well-dressed and clean-cut hero piecing together the evidence and loudly proclaiming the unflappable findings in an authoritative voice and going home once the culprit is placed behind bars. No, this is a cutting-edge tale of 21st century anthropologic analysis where nothing is clear-cut or black-and-white, save for the cold, inhospitable Hedestad winter. The story is dark, disturbing, and deranged -- many of the characters, too -- but it's the comparative case study of who makes up the heroes and villains that's the draw. The picture speaks loudly against preconceived notions, blind judgments, and other classic prejudices as it draws largely unconventional heroes. Lisbeth's life is shaped by those who either see and accept the person behind the piercings, tattoos, and cold exterior or who refuse to get to know her because of her appearance, age, and gender and who take for gospel the story of her life as it's recorded in a folder penned by and for bureaucrats who treat her as a file number -- or worse -- and not as an evolving, self-sufficient individual, a state in which she exists, it would seem, largely because of the very same judgments of others and not exclusively by her own actions. The story necessarily forces its audience to look beyond the external, see past moral disagreements, and judge others on actions, not simply outdated "norms." Certainly neither Lisbeth nor Mikael travel the high road in all that they do, leaving much of the story in a soupy sort of moral equivalence dilemma, but then again, that seems to be the standard for life, for better or for worse, the story making gross exaggerations and working on extremes but certainly making its point, as sharp and yet eloquent as it may be.
Director David Fincher does a superb job of telling the story from both sides, structurally de-emphasizing the character study but making sure to accentuate it within the broader thematic undercurrents. The film potentially runs into trouble considering just how heavy it can be and usually is. It's so cold, so dark, so disgusting that it threatens to alienate segments of its audience almost by default, but that underlying theme of the dark underbelly and the dangers of distant character judgment necessitate a more difficult-to-process visual tone. The film rarely lightens up; it's thematically heavy and structurally gray, with its second half, physically, a little brighter as the mysteries and people become more clearly defined, but at its core The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo plays with an almost unapproachable style that leaves the audience uncomfortable both physically and emotionally. Fincher doesn't prepare his audience for what's to come, either; for as shocking as the story may be, the director plays it straight and shows no hesitancy in doing so. Only his bleak stylings portend what's to come, yet even the seediest details become somewhat lost in translation from page to screen. The story does work a little better with the added breathing room and deeper exposition afforded by the written word, but Fincher certainly paints clearly the dastardly characters and deeds, even when not explicitly following the book. The picture certainly hits all of the necessary highlights, but a read-through of Larson's novel definitely helps in piecing together the themes which the film translation does indeed bring into greater focus, seeing the characters -- namely Lisbeth, Mikael, Henrik Vanger, Martin Vanger, Palmgren, and Bjurman -- play into the broader theme of judging people on their outward attributes rather than their inward traits, of living rightly in all areas, wrongly behind-the-scenes, or as an individual who may not fit socially acceptable criteria but who stay within the confines of basic decency until and unless pushed to do otherwise.
The complex characters require equally complex and nuanced performances, which the cast provides with Ocar-caliber efficiency. Needless to say, the film is dominated by the presence of Rooney Mara and her uncanny and complex performance of Lisbeth Salander. Mara pulls off the superficialities of Lisbeth very well. Of course, it's much easier to paint a character from the outside-in rather than inside-out. It's simple to put on a few piercings, draw on a few tattoos, dye eyebrows, and cast a slender young actress willing to film several brutal scenes and bare her body at several junctures. It's another altogether to so painstakingly create a character on the inside, a character who wears the external oddities with a wounded confidence so well. Mara literally gets under Lisbeth's skin, playing the part in such a way that the personality meshes with the exterior. Her actions and decidedly understated emotions come naturally, and the audience will find the nuanced performance effectively saying much more than is vocalized or physically demonstrated on the screen. Mara opens up a closed-off character without compromising the integrity of who Lisbeth Salander is or the intent with which Larson seemed to draw her. It's one of the most complex and understated but effective performances in recent memory, certainly defined by far more than the immediately-evident external traits that shape, but don't define, the characters. Daniel Craig puts in a fine effort as Mikael Blomkvist, doing well in a role away from the standard action fare in which he normally appears. His character doesn't translate quite as well to the screen as does Lisbeth, largely because time constraints keep him from the sort of intimate development enjoyed in the novel, and partially because Mara's performance is just that good. Still, it's an effective performance but one that's certainly overshadowed by both Mara and Fincher's smooth and pinpoint direction, the latter largely defined by its subtleties. For example, the film's first half borders on black-and-white with one of the first real splashes of brightness and color coming when Mikael first dines with Martin in his wide-open glass-walled house, the relative glow and obvious transparency both making for interesting studies in cinema style as it shapes structure, defines expectations, and helps tell a story.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features a gorgeous 1080p Blu-ray transfer, even if the film often appears washed out and gray. Fincher's HD video source appears flat and lifeless, which helps accentuate the literal frigid physical conditions, the figurative cold and long-buried past, and the complex and often not-as-they-seem characters. Despite its lack of brilliance and pronounced colors -- save, usually, for lively hues on the Mac desktop screen, Post-It notes, and other small details -- the image enjoys superb clarity and definition, the latter in particular at least insofar as the natural state of the image allows. Sony's transfer captures roughly-textured walls, skin details, and clothing lines with ease, particularly when the image thaws, winter turns to spring, and things necessarily liven up a bit. But even then, detail is only as good as it may be revealed within the confines and construct of the image. Black levels are critical, and appear deep and true and without signs of crush. The HD video source does produce some unsightly banding, which isn't cause for alarm but that does occasionally distract from the film and the transfer's many other positive attributes. The best thing to say about this Blu-ray transfer of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is that's its stable and true to the source. Certainly, it's not a movie to dazzle audiences with superficial HD brilliance, but it's a suitable vessel through which viewers may enjoy the more nuanced positives of a Blu-ray transfer that may not lend itself to traditional visual enjoyment but that is an example of a modern transfer sourced from modern techniques and that captures a very specific look with impeccable ease and near perfection.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features a compelling DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The track excels at both ends of the spectrum. Whether light musical notes that float about the soundstage with absolute precision or the more boisterous beats of a dance club number or the heavy riffs of hard Rock music, Sony's soundtrack brings all comers into the soundstage with commendable precision, clarity, and spacing, all of it practically transparent and seemingly eliminating the speakers in favor of a highly realistic sensation. Environmental sound effects play with the same sort of effect. Heavy falling rain, the echo of a slamming door, bone-chilling Hedestat Winter winds, and the busy din of the Millennium offices seamlessly transport the listener to the film's various locales, sucking the listening audience straight into the drama. Heavier sound effects are equally precise. Lisbeth's motorcycle zips about the listening area with natural precision. Several gunshots ring out with true-to-life accuracy as the shots linger in the air. The success of this track comes from its completeness, right down to ever-crisp and consistently center-focused dialogue. If there's a negative, it's that bass can be a little mushy, but it would seem that a little inconsistency and roughness was intended, particularly considering the accompanying visual qualities that aren't exactly about the most precise and natural imagery. All in all, this is another brilliant soundtrack from Sony.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo contains a wealth of bonus materials. Disc two houses most of them, and the majority are broken into subsets beyond the main-page listings of Characters, On Location, Post Production, and Promotion. Most of the supplements contain extensive behind-the-scenes footage as the core narrative is shaped through interviews. Notably absent are any deleted or extended scenes. English subtitles are available with the supplements. Disc three contains a DVD copy of the film. An Ultraviolet digital copy is also included.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One could probably write a dissertation about the layers, themes, and characters of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with only cursory mention of the murder mystery plot. Indeed, David Fincher's latest masterpiece and the source novel both are complexly thought-provoking beyond the confines of a film review. The two compliment one another beautifully; though the film doesn't show everything from the book or follow it quite to the letter (in fact, the film wraps up the story with haste, which is its only real problem), Fincher's vision for the story stays pretty much true to the source. Seeing the people, watching them work, and witnessing their personal failures, positive traits, and places in the world gives an added layer to the story that nicely supplements the written word and helps tie together some of the ideas and themes that are fully explored in the book but that seem a little more obvious when watched rather than read. The movie is expertly crafted and the performances are superb, with Rooney Mara turning in one of the most complex and nuanced performances in quite a long time, a performance certainly deserving of more than an Oscar nomination. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has the potential to disturb its audiences with its graphic dealings and decidedly adult-oriented themes, but it's one of the top must-see films of 2011. Sony's Blu-ray release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo delivers stunning video, fantastic audio, and plenty of extras. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo earns my highest recommendation.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: March 20-March 27 - March 19, 2012
David Fincher's sleek The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo reimagining arrives this Tuesday; while the film enjoyed modest box-office success, it also found itself the subject of public scrutiny. Many critics argued that Fincher's take on the material never properly ...
• The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Blu-ray (Updated) - February 13, 2012
In March, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will bring The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to Blu-ray. Director David Fincher's adaptation of the Stieg Larsson bestseller stars Daniel Craig (Layer Cake) as a Swedish journalist who accepts an offer from retired billionaire ...
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