Blogs by Bill Johnson
Quick Cuts - Capsule Movie Reviews
1/10/2012 9:27:17 PM
Bill Johnson offers capsule movie reviews of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Sherlock Holmes, and The Guard.
These capsule reviews of current movies offer a basic overview of what these stories did (or didn't do) to engage an audience.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher
This American version of the Swedish novel has opening credits that suggest the movie will be about S&M and bondage. More so than the Swedish film of the novel, this movie is more visual and more compressed. This movie also does a better job of conveying Lisbeth's journey, from anti-social misfit to a woman potentially capable of being in a loving relationship. The Swedish film ended on a strictly plot note, which undercut the power of that film. It left Lesbeth's journey unfulfilled.
The journalist Mikael Blomkvist operates to solve the mystery of the missing girl with Lisbeth. In the novel (and the Swedish film) his goal of saving the magazine he helped found comes across much more strongly.
I'm more removed from the novel than when I did the early capsule review, but I still found Lisbeth to be the more interesting, compelling character.
The movie does have a quality of coming fully to life when Mikael and Lisbeth start working together.
Reducing a novel with a complex web of characters and plot threads is difficult. Fincher and his screenwriter, Steven Zaillian, got the job done.
Sherlock Holmes, a Game of Shadows
Unfortunately, this movie takes the title too far. For most of of the movie, it's not clear what Moriarty is trying to accomplish in the shadows. The result is there's a lot of beautifully staged action, but for most of the film, no sense of an underlying point. What Moriarty is trying to accomplish comes out at the end of the film, but too late to make this a powerful story or an engaging plot (although viewers with an understanding of history will guess what Moriarty is aiming for).
The film does have the easy camaraderie of its two stars.
On the surface this film is a fish out of water story, with the fish being an ivy-league, African-American FBI agent sent to Ireland to help intercept a drug shipment. Circumstances force him to work with a braggart, racist cop. The FBI agent can't stand the man, but he also wonders if his seemingly uneducated, vulgar partner with a large sexual appetite for hookers is really much smarter than he lets on.
The plot is generic but the storytelling is organic. What happens, and why, is based on who these two men are, and the choices they make based on who they are. Different characters would change the outcome of the plot, versus action films where the characters are in the service of the plot.
A pleasure to watch.
A fourth edition of Bill Johnson's writing workbook, A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, is now available for $2.99 from Amazon Kindle.
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