The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

American Mystery Drama film.
Directed by David Fincher
Stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara

Based on a swedish novel that is the first part to the Millennium series, telling a story of a journalist named Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) investigating an event of a missing woman. As he progresses, he gets help from a dark and mysterious girl, Lisbeth Salander (Mara), who has brilliant researching and computer hacking skills.

I’ve got to say, Lisbeth Salander is one of the most intriguing and captivating characters I have ever seen on screen. She has become one of my favourite movie characters and no one else could have done better job than Rooney Mara.

Her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander outstands Noomi Rapace’s performance in the 2009 film of the same name. The character of Salander was further developed through Mara with more self conscious and identification. She is more than a gothic computer geek and you would think she’s the ‘baddie’ from how the camera reflects her in dark and mysterious shots. However, there is more to her than what meets the eye.

(That’s her when she physically transforms to help Mikael – gorgeous)

Lisbeth is mentally damaged and vulnerable, which her aggressive and vengeful behaviour derives from, and her genius-like intellect is admirable. Her affection towards Mikael allows her to capture the audiences’ trust and respect, displaying strong chemistry on screen.

Some scenes are hard to watch, very dark, brutal and thrilling. Even getting closer to the answers through the investigation brings discomfort because it’s more dangerous. “Some one in the family killed Harriot” and that someone could still be alive, keeping a close watch. The exciting thing about this movie is that we (audience) only find out who the murderer is when the Mikael and Lisbeth figure it out, so the whole time it’s heart-racing and compelling, which makes this a satisfying complex film and great adaptation to the swedish version.


Match Point

Comedy-drama thriller film, 2005
Directed by Woody Allen
Stars Jonathan Rhys Myers, Scarlett Johanson

Another great Woody Allen film, but I gotta say, it’s very different to the other movies he’s made before this – this is not a typical woody allen film.

This film opens the eyes and doors to the British upper class life, which is very contrasting to the upper class of America, hence did not receive high ratings in Britain than the States. I find it very traditional to see tennis as the sport of socialism amongst rich families and we see this in many many movies, especially in this one. I love it how the cliche love triangle happens on the tennis court when the sister of Tom has an eye on Chris (Jonathan Rhys Myers), and later Chris meets Tom’s fiancee (Scarlett Johanson) and has an affair. But I’m guessing all men on the planet would leave their girlfriends or wives if it was Scarlett Johanson, right? Even I find her beautiful… especially with a glare like this:

One word: irresistible.

The ‘drama’ in this film revolves around this one character’s (Chris) motives and actions. His mind is complicated and his intentions are so unclear. Everything is in head. One minute you see him fall in love at first sight with Nola, but the next, you see him be faithful to his commitment to Chloe and even marries her although his heart was not fully in love. Obviously, money plays a role. Chloe’s family is extremely wealthy and her father gave him a job and supported his business – something Nola could never offer. But then we see the flip side of how Chloe couldn’t have a baby and Nola gets knocked up straight away when they have an affair. Big twist.

Given his sweet, gentle and charming vibe, no one would expect him to do what he did. For those who have seen it, you know what I mean right? And for those who have yet to see it, this film is full of surprises! Not sure how far a man would go to resolve his problems but Woody Allen sure made an impression on his audience that his characters will go really far and can be deceiving. Perhaps he is reflecting British men and their ruthless nature ? Who knows. I’ve never been close with a british guy to know.

What I really find interesting about this film is the idea of ‘luck’. Some characters seem to have amazing luck and get away with anything they do, others have extremely bad luck when they’ve done nothing wrong. I guess that’s life.
For example, Chloe – married to the man of her dreams, money is never a problem and after many years of trying, finally conceives a baby, and husband does not leave her for the woman of HIS dreams – LUCKY!
Chris – married to a girl who comes from a great wealthy family and welcomes him as their own son, gives him a job, a business and supports him. He ends up murdering 2 people, but gets away with it purely with luck as well as his cleverness – LUCKY!
Nola – Falls out of love with Tom (Chloe’s older sister) and falls in love with Chris. Has an affair with him and becomes pregnant. Chris begins to lie to her and chooses Chloe over her and her baby – UNLUCKY
Mrs. Eastby – Neighbours with Nola, gets murdered for just knowing and seeing Chris and Nola together – UNLUCKY
Homeless Drug Addict – Randomly picks up a ring he finds on the streets and is then suspected of the murder of Mrs. Eastby – UNLUCKY

With a twisted plot, we are exposed to the wealthy nature of European people and their lifestyles – how different is it to the American? Maybe that’s what the directer intends to point out through this film…

The Prestige

British-American mystery thriller film, 2006
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Stars Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Cain, and Scarlett Johansson

Being nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction, Christopher Nolan co-wrote this film with his brother and co-produced it with his wife, making this film rather personal and sentimental than all his other great films he has made.

This film is about two magicians in the late 19th century in rivalry to create the best illusion on stage. It’s a brutal fight and they risk their lives to succeed. They are so obsessed with their job and magic tricks, that you end up questioning their humanity because they go so far to keep their secrets and maintain their rights over the illusions they perform. Would you really give up your family just to be number one, and would you really cut off a finger just to keep your secret? Their obsession eventually leads to tragic results for both Borden and Angier.

The interesting thing about this movie is that as a viewer, if it’s your first time watching it, you literally have NO idea what’s really going on, none of it makes sense and time is flashed forwards and backwards – which is different to most films because the audience is often one step ahead of the actual characters in the movie to figure the secret/mystery etc but this movie does the opposite and the characters seem to know more than we do, creating that active response to the film. The amount of narration and voiceovers indicates the depth of the characters’ mind and the secrets they carry… so if you lose focus on what is said, you feel as if you miss out on all the clues to the mystery of the plot, which makes this a great film – keeps you intrigued the WHOLE way through! I literally sat there in COMPLETE concentration, trying hard to figure out what’s going on.

Borden and Angier used to be mates, who shared a common interest – magical illusions. However, Borden (Christian Bale) came up with a trick “the transported man” that Angier could not figure out – this drove him to his madness. Not only did he lose his wife due to Borden’s so-called ‘mistake’ of tying the wrong knot around his wife’s wrists during a show (causing her inability to escape while she was in the water, thus drowns on stage infront of everyone and in front of Angier’s eyes) but he also performed an unbeatable and unexplainable trick (walking in one door and out another door that’s across the stage). Only near the end we find out the true mystery behind this magical illusion and does not require science nor technology to explain it.

The casting for this is also perfect – very familiar to The Dark Knight trilogy. Jackman and Bale, both dominating figures on screen that the anticipation leading to the very moment when they confront each other was epic. Michael Cain also did a terrific job as the supporting actor, his accent and character is impossible to hate, and is quite similar to the butler role he plays in Batman. And last but not least, Scarlett Johanson, how could we forget you? Her beauty is the only source of vibrant colour and light in the entire movie. Great performance of tricks as well.

I also want to take a note on the unique and deliberate techniques of cinematography in this film. I love the way the visual image is constructed to influence the mood, and the lighting is never natural instead staged, and colours are often dark and shady.

Beautiful shot with the endless ‘magical’ lightbulbs everywhere

This is one of those films which the protagonist and the antagonist is not defined, but rather blurred. It was impossible to decide which magician is better and who is more of a victim… like, they’re both good and evil and MAD, but it seems to be intentional, and the complex nature of the characters’ mentality are demonstrated through this undefined nature.

My Week With Marilyn

British drama film, 2011
Directed by Simon Curtis
Stars Michelle Williams

This is a film based on two books written by Colin Clark. It depicts the life of Marilyn Munroe during the shoot of 1957 film, The Prince and the Showgirl. Instead of watching films that star Marilyn herself, this film reveals many aspects of her as a person through the eyes of Clark as he had spent a week escorting her around London. Despite her flawless beauty and method acting skills, the character of Marilyn Munroe is shown to be very insecure, unstable and sensitive in this film. Although the whole world admired her, the smile she puts on infront of cameras does not always reflect her happiness and in fact does a great job at hiding what’s truly going on in her life. This film reveals the struggles she faced in her marriage life with Arther Miller, who leaves London after an argument.

The personal life of Marilyn Munroe wasn’t as glamorous as it seemed to the eyes of the public and I imagine the same for all other famous celebrities in the world today. Having to put up with paparazzi, fans and directors etc, the stress would be enormous. The major insecurity of Marilyn Munroe was that she could not trust many people, or anyone for that matter, and she always feared people’s intentions.
“Are you on my side or theirs?” – Marilyn Munroe (Williams)
She thought no one really understood her besides her acting coach Paula. However, the moment Colin Clark met her, he fell in love and did whatever she asked to prove to her that he is on her side and genuinely cares about her. He comforted her when she struggled to portray her character on set and this meant a lot to the fragile person of Marilyn Munroe.

No other actress could have done a better job than Michelle Williams. I think in some ways, the authentic gentleness and timidity of Michelle herself helped her portray Marilyn’s character perfectly.

Real Marilyn Munroe:

Amazing physical portrayal.
The soft voice, the shyness, the beauty, the charisma… all is well developed and reflected in Michelle’s acting – it’s like as if she never had to ‘act’ for this film. Stunning performance.

Historic films that tell the story of a celebrity is always intriguing and fascinating to experience. Instead of photographs and reading about them, seeing them on screen as a person, who they really were when no cameras are around is meaningful and always contrasts with you initially thought of them. I honestly thought Marilyn Munroe would be the outgoing, confident and loud type of girl but this film depicts a very sensitive and depressing side of her life, which has changed my perspective of her forever and I will thank this film for it.