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My EXTREMELY LOUD Thoughts on the WAR HORSE WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

Submitted by on December 19, 2011 – 11:57 pm7 Comments

OK, my thoughts aren’t THAT loud and there are no tattoos on Joey, the horse in War Horse (there is a birthmark), but I am combining my thoughts on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and War Horse in this post. I’ve been traveling and it’s been planes, trains, and automobiles for the past twenty-four hours, so the following won’t be full-length reviews but lists of the pertinent points I want to make about each movie.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If you’re curious about this movie at all, it’s probably because you’re a) a diehard fan of the books and/or Swedish movies and want to compare, b) you haven’t read or seen any of the other versions but are thinking about checking this out to see what all the Stieg Larsson and Lisbeth Salander hubbub is about, or c) you’re a David Fincher fan. So here’s what you want to know:

  1. Rooney Mara is convincing but her Lisbeth is different than Noomi Rapace’s. Rapace was fiercer, with an undercurrent of anger even when she was still, whereas Mara’s Lisbeth is cooler, as in detached. She also looks younger and more waifish, closer to the book’s description. Bottom line, though, Rapace’s performance leaves a much more indelible impression.
  2. If you’ve read the books and seen the Swedish movie, you don’t need to see this one (my review of the book is here and the Swedish movie here). It’s faithful, down to the sluggish exposition in the beginning. There are no surprises because you know everything. The change in the ending, a source of controversy, is not a big deal and it works. Without it, the two-and-a-half-hour movie would’ve been even longer.
  3. Except for the dark, freaky title sequence, you can’t tell this is a Fincher movie, though after The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Fincher style seems to be expanding.
  4. The biggest laugh at the screening I attended came from a T-shirt Lisbeth is wearing when she first meets Mikael.
  5. Daniel Craig is a sexier Mikael Blomkvist, which justifies his ladies’ man status in the novels. The actor starts out doing a slight Swedish accent but abandons it fairly quickly (everyone else keeps theirs on). This isn’t about him, though. It’s Mara’s movie. And while she does just fine, Rapace left combat boots that are hard to fill.

Nerd verdict: Fine film, but redundant for those previously Tattooed

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The protagonist of this movie, based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, might also be autistic or have Asperger’s, like Lisbeth. Eleven-year-old Oskar Schell, whose father died in 9/11, finds a key the senior Schell left behind and goes on a quest to find out where the key fits, believing it’s a clue to a puzzle his dad would’ve wanted him to solve.

  1. Thomas Horn, who has never acted before, is an amazing find as Oskar. His role is extremely difficult, for not only does he carry the movie, but he has long monologues spouting facts and figures that would twist the tongue of actors twice his age and experience. Horn is a Jeopardy! kids champion and obviously has the smarts to make the dialogue convincing, but he also has emotional intelligence, a harder thing to access, especially on cue. You can see him thinking, and then feel what he feels.
  2. Tom Hanks plays the dad in jovial Hanks fashion, and Bullock has some moving moments as the mom. It’s nice that it’s no longer a surprise when she turns in strong dramatic work. Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, and Max von Sydow also have standout scenes, but their roles are all small.
  3. It might still be too soon (it may always be) for a wide audience to accept a movie about 9/11. Scenes of people falling from the sky in slo-mo don’t help.

Nerd verdict: Perhaps too Loud, too soon

War Horse

An English lad named Albert raises and trains a horse named Joey that his father bought at auction to help around their farm. It’s quite clear, though, that Joey is much too spirited for mundane farm life, and when WWI breaks out, Albert’s father sells him to the cavalry. The movie is Joey’s journey through the war and the people—civilians and military from all sides—whose lives he touches.

  1. The horses who play Joey are great actors, displaying such a vivid personality, you can almost tell what Joey would say if he could talk. If you’re not invested in his fate, then your heart is smaller than the Grinch’s.
  2. Director Steven Spielberg thankfulky holds back on the war depiction instead of giving us the full Private Ryan, but some of the scenes are no less traumatic. Yes, awful things happen to the horses. I wept more than once, but didn’t feel manipulated because of Spielberg’s restraint.
  3. Tom Hiddleston (Loki!), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock!), and Emily Watson have small roles but make the most of them. Their absense is felt when they’re not on screen.
  4. The most memorable scene is one that shows the ridiculousness of war, how people wouldn’t want to kill each other if they could see they’re not that different when standing eye to eye instead of gun to head. The scene is more striking because it uses humor in the middle of a tense situation, and the point is made while we’re laughing, which is sometimes a more effective way to communicate than making others cry.

Nerd verdict: Star Horse

What are you looking to seeing this weekend? If I don’t see you here again before Sunday, I wish you a holiday that makes you feel like a kid waiting for Santa to come the night before. Smile big, spread joy, and may it come back to you tenfold.

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