Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.
RottenTomatoes [87%, 79%]
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an extremely good novel. Published posthumously after Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson suffered a heart attack, this book and the two others have found incredible worldwide selling success. In 2009, Niels Arden Oplev directed the first movie adaptation of the book in Sweden, with actress Naomi Rapace receiving international recognition for her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander. So, Hollywood, being what it is, of course had to jump onto the bandwagon and make it’s own version. This was at first annoyingly predictable, and I didn’t look forward to it. But I found that David Fincher was on board, and then I jumped on the bandwagon as well.
Daniel Craig [Casino Royale, Cowboys and Aliens] play Mikael Blomkvist, journalist and co-editor of Millennium magazine, and his career could be over after a failed attempt to out a billionaire industrialist as a criminal. A rich, retired businessman named Henrik Vanger, played by the award winning Christopher Plummer [Beginners, The Sound of Music], hires a unique yet extremely talented researched Lisbeth Salander, best actress nominee Rooney Mara, to look into Blomkvist’s career, and after satisfying results, offers to clear Blomkvists name if he helps to try and solve a 40 year old mystery: who killed Harriet Vanger? Circumstances make it so that it must have been someone within the Vanger family, so Blomkvist stays on the family owned island in Hedestad and interviews members of the family and uses the information Henrik Vanger has gathered over the years to try and find this killer. When Blomkvist decides to hire Salander to help him solve the case, they start to dig up old secrets that people don’t want dug up, and a seemingly harmless investigation turns into a dangerous adventure to find the truth.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the second consecutive collaboration between director David Fincher and the music production duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, and editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, who all worked together on The Social Network. There are many similarities in these two films regarding the previous crew positions, most notably the original music. In both films, the music did an incredible job at giving the movie the mood and weight that it needs. In this film, Fincher does really well to give the movie a civilian and realistic story, something that the book gave off really well. I liked the attention to detail of just getting up and making coffee, Googling people to do research, things that normal people would do. It makes it almost feel like a documentary. Fincher’s previous film Zodiac did much of the same things in the same genre. The music comes in to enhance the thrills and intensity of the movies serious scenes, almost pushing them over the top. It’s a near perfect combination. I really hope that this group of people stay together to make films as long as possible, because they are really quite breathtaking in both their approach and delivery.
Atticuss Ross and Trent Reznor, 2011 Oscar: Best Original Score
Another cast member of note is Steven Zaillian, who adapted two incredible screenplays in the same year with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Moneyball. He won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for Schindler’s List, and then didn’t really make anything of note for a long while until now. It’s clear that he’s still got what it takes, and hopefully he won’t stray away from good projects this time.
As good as the crew of this film was, you can’t have a good movie without good performances. And the four leading actors here give you just that. At first I thought that the casting of Craig as Mikael Blomkvist was wrong, because he is a little younger and a little more macho than the book makes him out to be, but he really does a good job embodying the character Larsson created. Plummer is as good as he always is, and Stellan Skarsgård [Good Will Hunting, Thor] is awesome as the mysterious and suspicious Martin Vanger. The best performance, as you probably already know, is from Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. Salander’s character is one of the most intriguing and extraordinary characters that I’ve ever come across in either books or movies. With little to no personal skills, but infinitely many others, it is a very unique role to play. Mara doesn’t really have much big league acting experience at all, her most recognizable work being a small role in Fincher’s last film The Social Network. This is a huge breakout performance from her, and she almost won an Oscar for it. I didn’t think she could possibly live up to the performance that Rapace gave in the Swedish rendition, but I now believe that Mara has far surpassed. It will be fun to see what she can do in the future, especially in the next two installments of the Larsson trilogy.
Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander
Although the film is borderline perfect when it comes to production, I think a film needs more than that to be truly great and lasting. The viewer needs to be able to connect on some sort of personal or emotional level. This movie does not achieve that. I can’t really fault Fincher or anyone involved with the film for that. I think it is just the way of these intellectual, fact filled mystery thrillers. Even with a 158 minutes run time, there is barely enough room for this movie to fit in all of the facts and side stories necessary to not only make sense, but to develop, maintain, and solve the actual mystery. There isn’t much room to be able to allow the audience to connect with the characters, so I can’t label this film as perfect, despite coming so close.
3.5/4 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘s 158 minute run time is just enough to allow the production staff to deliver nearly perfect visuals, sound effects, music, performances, and information necessary for a great mystery thriller. Unfortunately, there is not enough room to connect emotionally or personally.