Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

It's a little late I honestly should have posted this one over the Christmas holiday but I'm gonna sound like a broken record again, yeah I was busy with stuff. I flew down to N.C. to see the family for a week got my nog and bourbon on. Got my fill of the Christmas tree and my Mom's eclectic taste in candy. It's the good kind mind you but some of it is pretty odd, like these weirdly packaged chocolates from Belgium. She also got those Harry Potter every flavor beans, and yes they actually have a vomit flavored one, I tried it and it almost made me gag. Anyway saw some family and old friends and finally later in the week I was allowed to sneak off to see this flick with one of my best friends from home. Of course he had seen the original Swedish films and read the books. I having no such information under my belt went in completely blind. Now my friend was a bit of a skeptic to the whole thing because, as I said before, he has read the books and seen the original films. So he was trying desperately to not reveal things to me while at the same time was not so subtlety telling me everything. I was able to tune out most of it before the start of the first reel.
Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a Swedish journalist, is in pretty deep shit. He is being hit with a libel suit from a shady businessman and he just got smacked down by the Swedish courts. He's looking at some jail time and some hefty fees. In order to make ends meet he finds himself knee deep into a private investigation for a wealthy baron of industry, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), who has asked the journalist to help him solve a mystery that has plagued him for over 40 years. Every year on his birthday his Niece, Harriet, would send him pressed flowers in a frame. After her disappearance the flowers kept coming, almost mocking Vanger every year. Blomkvist begins to dig into Vanger's family and finds the lot of them to be despicable, contemptible people with very little saving graces. He hires a mysterious computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) as his assistant researcher in the case. This is a damaged woman, she has almost no social graces, she's been in the system as a orphan she's experienced every setback a child with no parents can endure, not to mention she looks like a Goth girl with the grit of Sarah Connor.
Director David Fincher did an incredible job adapting this story for American audiences. I admit I'm one of those that shudder when we take a movie from overseas that has come out recently and try to adapt it. There are some occasions where it works like Let Me In (re-make of Let the Right One In), but most of the time they end up like the countless mindless shit films like No Reservations, that cooking movie with Catherine Zeta Jones. Thankfully for all of us it's got the heart that Let Me In brought. It's gorgeously filmed and wonderfully acted. I don't know much about Rooney Mara, I only saw her briefly in the Social Network, but damn she is a unique one. Her character is both fragile and strong all at once and she plays that part effortlessly. She's oddly disturbing and sexy at the same time. And I usually am not one to find tattoos and piercings to be in any way attractive, and I still don't. But for some reason she truly pulled it off.
As my friend pointed out to me after the film there were some pretty big changes from the book so a word of warning to those die hard fans, this movie is not word for word with the book so you can either accept that or don't waste your time. If you were to miss it though you would be missing one of the best films of the year. Yes it's disturbing in a way that only David Fincher can. Yes it's a little long and there is quite a lot of character and story but it is superior to many of the films out there now and it's worth every frame. It's a winding mystery with a few twists and turns and quite frankly you'll never listen to Enya the same way again. Trust me that scene was painful to watch, what is it with Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) and torture scenes.  This flick should rack up a few oscar nods and Fincher should be awarded the prize that he was snubbed for last year. I doubt he'll get it this time but damnit if he didn't go right out there and make himself worthy again for a second straight year.
Grade: 4 Buckets

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Finally, it only took, four weeks before this movie went wide enough to hit my local theatre here in East Brunswick. Focus Features started their platform release on the 9th of December and slowly rolled it out to the rest of the country. Given the fact that it's a throwback to the old spy films like the Ipcress File (1965) and Funeral in Berlin (1966), where there is more character, nuance and story rather than action it's a sad fact that American audiences would probably try to avoid it. Which unfortunately seems to be the case as it has only made about 6 million up to this point. So I'm going to say this very carefully, if you are thinking this is going to be some kind of Bourne Identity or James Bond kind of film you are going to be disappointed. There are no slam bang action scenes this isn't a high-octane plot thriller. This is a methodical exploration of British intelligence during the Cold War regarding a deep and devastating Molehunt, and trust me it's Badass in it's own way.
Based on the popular book and series by author John Le Carre. In the dark days of the Cold War, George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is forced from semi-retirement to investigate a possible leak within British Intelligence. As he digs deeper he discovers a mole that has possibly been there for years providing sensitive information to the KGB whom the agency calls Karla. He chooses his team of investigators carefully taking only trusted advisors and an inside company man. The first is a retired but loyal agent named Mendel (Roger Lloyd-Pack). His inside man is Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has the unfortunate task of having to run interference and sneak out sensitive files for Smiley to build his case. Smiley focuses his attention on his old boss and mentor, Control (John Hurt), who along with Smiley was forced out of the service because of Control's obsession with a possible mole in the office, they call the Circus. For Control it had to be one of four people, all section chief's that run the Circus, he gave them all special codenames. The first is the ringleader of the incoming group and the new head of the Circus, Percy Alleline aka Tinker (Toby Jones). The second is the suave class clown Bill Haydon aka Tailor (Colin Firth). The third is the tough Cold Warrior Roy Bland aka Soldier (Ciaran Hinds). The last is Smiley himself, Spy. There is of course a wild card a rogue agent who claims to have a bead on the possible mole, field agent Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy), but can he be trusted
I know this was a really long explanation but it's necessary especially if you are planning to see it. It's good to know all the players going in cause this movie weaves a tapestry of characters and plot that if you aren't careful you could get a little lost. As I stated above if you have the attention span of a 13 year old then this really isn't the movie for you. There are so many things in every scene that build the story to it's ultimate conclusion that even I had trouble catching them all. This was truly a fantastic film with great performances and some excellent twists and turns that kept me guessing till the end. Gary Oldman, as always, was awesome, you aren't sure what to make of Smiley when you first meet him but as the film builds you can see the wheels turning in his mind without him saying a word, his regrets, the human side to a man who is almost machine like in what he does. It seems like he doesn't emote much or react to almost anything at the same time his mannerisms seem to react to everything. It's really quite an incredible thing to watch. I hope that Gary Oldman gets a nod for the role and even though the box office has been light it truly deserves to have a nomination for Best Picture. It was certainly one of my favorites this year hands down.
Grade: 5 Buckets