Movie Review – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

If you’re looking for something light-hearted and amusing, go see the Chipmunks or the Muppets.  If an intense,  violent, dramatic thriller is your cup of tea, be sure to catch the newest adaptation of Steig Larsson’s international best seller.  But beware, this film is not for the faint of heart.

David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, The Social Network) brings  the ferocity of a Scandanvian winter, and a no holds barred approach to this film. Those who have read the book know that there is sex,lies, and videotape, along with computer hacking,  murder, rape, and some flat out sick stuff that makes a Sunday helmet to helmet hit look like playground antics.

Those who haven’t read the books will hopefully understand why the movie clocks in at 158 minutes.  There is a lot of story to tell here.  Mikael Bloomkvist is a Swedish journalist working for an independent magazine, who at the beginning of the film if found guilty of libel against a prominent businessman.  Henrik Vagner, an aging, retired head of a large, former industrial old line company hired the disgraced Bloomqvist to solve the forty year old mystery of his beloved niece’s murder.

Bloomqvist has to investigate the Vanger family, which is more dysfunctional than the McCourts, Addams, or Manson families. There are Nazis, drunks, and loners that don’t talk to each other.  Along the way he enlists the aid of Lisbeth Salander, one of the most intriguing characters in modern fiction. She is a brilliant hacker, with a photographic memory and an anti-social personality. Salander works for a security firm, doing a lot of “off the books” work.  She only takes on cases that interest her, and when Bloomkvist asks her to help catch a “killer of women,” Salander jumps at the chance.  She has some issues of her own, which are explored more deeply in the second and third novels of the famous trilogy.

The movie is very faithful to book, except for a minor plot adjustment that doesn’t change the overall outcome, but does save some valuable screen time.

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander

Rooney Mara is fantastic in the movie.  Certainly, and Oscar nomination is in her future. Some may remember her from her small role in the “Social Network,” where her breakup with Mark Zuckerberg is the inciting event which results in the creation of Facebook.  She bares everything, including many body piercings, her soul, and most of her body. She even manages to keep a Swedish accent going the whole time, unlike Daniel Craig (Bloomqvist) who slips back into British English about halfway through. Stellan Skarsgaard is the only Swede in a major role, is terrific also as the smooth talking, slightly creepy brother of the missing girl, that now runs whats left of the formerly gigantic Vanger empire.

Steven Zallian (Gangs of New York, Schindler’s List) does a fabulous job of adapting Larsson’s story.  Trent Renzor and Atticus Ross once again team up for a haunting soundtrack.  The movie’s hallucinatory opening sequence is set to a searing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”

If you haven’t already, read the book.  It was so much more enjoyable to see the characters come to life again. I am so looking forward to the next two installments of the series. By the way, if you want to see the original Lisbeth Salander, Noomi Rapace can be found as Madam Simza Heron in “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.”

My rating – a grand slam – four stars.