Movie Review: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
The new American version of the first installment of Stieg Larsson’s “Millenium Trilogy” is very, very good. For those who don’t know the story, a discredited journalist named Mikael Blomqvist is hired by Henrick Vanger, a wealthy Swedish family patriarch, to solve the decades old disappearance and presumed death of his beloved niece, Harriet Vanger. Harriet disappeared as a sixteen year old on the same day that a truck accident blocked the only bridge leading off of the island which contains the family compound. Her body was never found. The only lingering clues are framed wildflowers which are sent annually to Henrik, presumably by the girl’s killer. Mikael enlists the aid of Lisbeth Salander, the girl of the title, an ace researcher who can get around any computer security encryption. Lisbeth is a deeply troubled young woman prone to violence, revenge, bisexuality, body piercing and tattoos. Mikael’s search for the long lost niece uncovers a probable serial killer, most likely one of the Vangers, but which one? Several of the uncles were Nazi sympathizers and all of the Vangers have issues, either with alcohol, anti-Semitism or anti-social behavior. Eventually Mikael and Lisbeth independently identify the culprit, ableit nearly too late to save Mikael’s life. The solution to the fate of Harriet Vanger is revealed, although simplified in this version of the story.
David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" has many strengths. The casting is brilliant. I thought that Daniel Craig would be a bit too macho to portray Mikael, but this former James Bond displays enough wariness, uncertainty and even fear to be convincing. Rooney Mara is superb as Lisbeth, portraying the character’s twin natures: vulnerable waif and vengeful control freak. The supporting cast is excellent also, particularly Chritopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger.
The cinematography adds to the general creepiness of the story. The snowy landscapes of the Vanger estate make you feel at times like you are watching a black and white Hitchcock film rather than a modern blockbuster. The city-scapes are also draped in winter drab, adding to the somber atmosphere.
The highlight of the film, though, may be the opening credits, played over a heavy metal remake of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Immigrant Song” which was director David Fincher’s idea brought to life by Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor. This American movie is very similar to the Swedish version, although the lack of subtitles is a definite plus for this one. Rooney Mara’s interpretation of Lisbeth Salander is different from Noomi Rapace’s, but not necessarily better. I thought Mara’s occasional humorous moments helped the character seem more real.
This is not a movie for the faint of heart, however. The violent rape scenes are disturbing and the photos of the serial killer's victims which Mikael and Lisbeth uncover are equally difficult to view.
All in all, though, this is a very good rendition of Steig Larsson’s haunting story.