The lights dim, the movie begins with a brief prologue, and the zany and incredibly weird opening credits begin, set to a creepy cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." From the beginning, we are in for a wild ride as Stieg Larsson's incredibly popular novel "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is brought to life on screen.
Scorned journalist Mikael Blomkvist is called upon by Henrik Vanger, a very wealthy man, while writing a book. Vanger is in search of an answer to the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, which occurred over 40 years ago. He assumes that Harriet is dead, and that she was murdered. He looks to Mikael to investigate her disappearance and who killed her. Then Mikael gets assistance from Lisbeth Salander, a dangerous but intelligent 24 year-old punk who is an accomplished computer hacker and a great contribution to the solving of other crimes. Together, Mikael and Lisbeth go on a dark, eerie journey into a world of crime, Nazism, and corruption that will lead them to Harriet's assassin.
I walked into "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" with almost no knowledge of Larsson's novel or the Swedish film made a few years before David Fincher's version. The end result is ultimately an extremely satisfying, brutal, and complex thriller thanks to great direction by Fincher (known greatly for his work on "Seven," "The Game," and "The Social Network"), excellent writing, and an impeccably chosen cast.
After only a few years, the character of Lisbeth Salander has become an attention-grabbing heroine that is as iconic as Edward Cullen of the love-it-or-hate-it "Twilight" series. And we can understand why. After all the truly awful and hideous things that have plagued her life, Lisbeth doesn't take any crap from anybody. She may be angry, violent, overtly sexual, demanding, and perhaps a little crazy, but she is a genius at what she does, and has reasons for all of her actions, no matter how gruesome they may be.
The mystery surrounding the film is sophisticated and white-knuckling, adding to the intensity and mood of the story and its characters. We're not sure of who is Harriet's killer, or if Harriet is even dead, until the last half hour of the film, and when we do find out the twist, it leaves a stupendous impact.
After cementing his reputation in brutal crime thrillers, and surprising us with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "The Social Network," David Fincher was the right man for the director's chair. Every film he makes, even a drama like "The Social Network," sets up a tone of genuine suspense, tension, and fear for the characters. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" isn't any different as Fincher adds his signature touch to the movie.
Of all of the people they could have chosen to play these roles, the casting director landed in a pot of gold. Daniel Craig does a wonderful job as Mikael, showing us that he can play characters other than James Bond. With the amount of screen time she has, Robin Wright is also very good as Blomkvist's business partner Erika Berger. Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård also turn in great performances as Henrik Vanger and Martin Vanger.
The person to really watch out for, however, is Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. Getting her big break in the underrated remake of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and later starring in Fincher's previous film "The Social Network" (giving a dynamite performance in the opening scene), Mara has sealed her future with many more promising and exciting roles because of her portrayal of Lisbeth. This is not an easy role to play, knowing that Mara is the second person to play the character. She must endure two shocking rape scenes and a torture sequence, and there is a hefty amount of nudity involved. Mara embodies Lisbeth, immediately bringing immense intimidation, danger, and fury every time she comes on to the screen. Her eyes are wide and emotionless, almost as if you can see right through her. And with everything that has happened to the character, we understand that Lisbeth has a right to be that way. She may be smart, but she is not interested in attraction or friendships with another human being. Overall, Mara gives a sensational, fearless, dedicated, and electrifying performance that guarantees an Oscar nod.
Being released during the cheery time of the holidays, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is not a feel-good film, by any means. It is a harsh, gritty, and rough cinema trip that answers the question of leaving the kids at home with the babysitter. Also, if you're squeamish, you will not like it. However, those who have read the book, and those who have not read it, should check it out. Even without having read Larsson's novel, I left the theater completely satisfied. It is a movie experience that you don't commonly get. Fincher has done it again. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a must!
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