Movie reviews

DAVID FINCHER has directed some very good crime films during his distinguished career, including Se7en (1995) and Zodiac (2007), but it’s unlikely The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (18s) will feature on a show-reel of his finest moments when the Academy finally gets around to presenting him with a lifetime achievement award.

A remake of the Swedish film of the same name from 2009, and remarkably faithful to both it and the Stieg Larsson novel that serves as its source material, the story finds disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) commissioned by a wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), to investigate the disappearance of the man’s niece some 40 years previously. Blomqvist is aided in his search by Lisbeth Salander (Mara Rooney), an unorthodox investigator who specialises in computer hacking. The fatal flaw is that while Salander is by some distance the most original element of the tale, the story doesn’t actually require her presence in order for Blomqvist to solve the mystery. Meanwhile, her originality should not be confused with plausibility: shockingly rebellious, and with good reason, Salander’s memorable physical appearance is the antithesis of the successful investigator’s ability to blend in to the point of invisibility. Moreover, a crucial plot twist, in which she meekly submits to a sexual predator and so sets in train most of the secondary plot, is entirely out of character. That said, Mara is bracingly forthright as the unlovable Salander, and Craig puts in a solid if largely unmemorable performance. Fincher crafts a handsome-looking film which offers a beautifully bleak Sweden, and presents us with a formidable cast (Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff and Joely Richardson all have meaty roles), but the story defeats even this most inventive and idiosyncratic of auteur directors.

CIVILISATION as we know it is also under threat in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (12A), but Brad Bird’s film — the fourth in the Mission Impossible franchise — is rather less intense than Fincher’s. Tom Cruise stars yet again as Ethan Hunt, the man for whom the phrase ‘a problem is an opportunity’ might have been coined; even before the opening credits have had the chance to roll, Hunt has ambled out of a maximum security Russian prison, combining some trademark resourcefulness with more than a few chop-socky moves, and tossing some knowing humour into the mix for the benefit of the die-hard Mission Impossible fans. A break-in to the Kremlin swiftly follows, where Hunt discovers that a maverick nuclear war theorist, Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), plans to instigate a nuclear attack on the United States. Bolstered by his team of sultry Jane (Paula Patton) and the hapless Benji (Simon Pegg), Hunt takes off on a continent-hopping pursuit of Hendricks, aided by mysterious terrorist analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner). Essentially, the movie is one extended action set-piece, with the highlight being Hunt’s scaling of the tallest building in the world in Dubai, and Cruise delivers in his imitable style to negotiate a mine-field of potentially crippling plot-holes, as often as not at a dead sprint. This is intended as big, dumb fun, and in that much at least it succeeds handsomely.

ALSO opening this Christmas are two hardy perennials, An American in Paris (1951) and Meet Me in St Louis (1944), both of which screen at Dublin’s IFI cinema. The latter is set at Christmas, in 1903, and stars Judy Garland as a young woman devastated by the news that she will have to leave her beloved St Louis to move to New York — so much so, that she can only console herself by rendering timeless the classic Christmas song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. If that festively themed musical whets your appetite try An American in Paris, another Vincente Minelli musical, this one starring Gene Kelly in arguably his finest celluloid performance. An ex-GI who stayed in Paris to paint once the war ended, Kelly does significantly more hoofing than painting throughout, in the process creating — with his co-star Leslie Caron — one of the great Hollywood romances.

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