Written by J.T. Johnson
Before I really get into this review, I should note that I have never read any of the books in the “Millennium” series even though I have been told that I should. I have also not seen the original Swedish film adaptations even though I have also been told that I should see those as well. Therefore, I can only give my opinion of director David Fincher’s version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.
The film is a murder mystery that has Fincher’s distinctive visual style and is more akin to one of his earlier efforts, “Se7en”. After being humiliated by losing a libel case against a man he knows to be crooked, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is hired by another rich businessman named Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Henrik wants to utilize Mikael’s keen investigative skills to solve a 40-year-old murder.
Before hiring the journalist, Henrik had a background check done on Mikael which was conducted by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). The young woman is a socially lacking and awkward person who also contains a photographic memory. Despite being fiercely independent, Lisbeth is also a ward of the state and has a few problems of her own, including her new guardian Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen).
Eventually, Mikael begins to discover elements from the old case and decides that he needs help. Henrik’s lawyer tells Mikael about Lisbeth and the two eventually meet. From this point on, the film focuses almost solely on solving the case.
The first thing that I found interesting is casting Craig as Mikael. It gives the sense that this rugged, seemingly tough man will be the one to solve the case. While Mikael is talented and definitely integral to the story, it is revealed through the course of the film that Lisbeth is truly the hero of the piece. It is this interesting role reversal that helps make the film even more interesting despite already having the audience hooked.
Lisbeth is that rare tough female lead that most movies lack in order to have a man save the day. It is sad for me to say that I have not really been as interested in a female lead since Uma Thurman’s turn as the Bride in the “Kill Bill” movies. Of course, like any role male or female, the character would not have worked had Fincher not found the right actress to bring Lisbeth to life.
Mara gives a truly astonishing performance and hopefully it will not go unnoticed by too many people. Lisbeth is a character that is so different that had she been played the wrong way, the audience would have ended up laughing at her rather than cheering her on. Mara did an outstanding job and hopefully we will be seeing her again in adaptations of the other two novels and in other films.
Craig also does solid turn as Mikael. This is the same actor who had no problem showing a rather vulnerable side to the ultimate male hero, James Bond. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that he was able to bring that same vulnerability to Mikael and it helps bring another dynamic layer to an already stellar storyline.
Fincher has already proven that he likes to go against the normal Hollywood routine with films such as the aforementioned “Se7en” and the cult favorite “Fight Club”. With this film, one can see how he loves to twist the modern conventions of a mystery thriller and also proves why he is one of the better directors working in Hollywood.
The film does run at two hours and forty minutes. While this can usually mean that there are moments where the film dragged, I actually never even noticed the time passing by and was completely absorbed by the movie. I thought the fantastic film “Drive” was going to be my pick for the best movie this year, but “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” swept in at the last minute and has definitely claimed the spot.