Movie Review : The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

The film is definitely not for everyone especially with its storyline and intensity of the subject matter. Be warned that the sexual violence scenes are graphic and not suitable for most viewers. I even noticed a few adults in the theater who looked a little uncomfortable during some scenes. If you have not read the book, you might not be prepared to see how dark the film can get.

The Story:

The movie tells the story of Blomkvist and his experiences in Sweeden during the investigation of a 40-year-old murder. Hired by the wealthy Vanger family to uncover clues to the murder, Blomkvist ends up using the assistance of an accomplished but socially awkward investigator Salander. Without giving too much away, we see Salander's struggle to fit in and the sexual abuse she suffers in the process. Beneath all her awkward and quiet manerisms is an accomplished set of technical and investigative skills. The bulk of the 2.5 hour film consists of following Blomkvist and Salander as they uncover a string of clues and evidence. By building both characters up front, we as the audience are completely on board and feel like we're part of the investigation ourselves.

The Characters:

The character I haven’t yet mentioned, and she is the most interesting thing about the film, is Lisbeth Salander, a young savant computer hacker with a troubled history and the tattooed girl of the title. She is played by Rooney Mara, that sweet girl who breaks up with Mark Zuckerberg at the beginning of "The Social Network," with equal parts introverted quiet reserve and devastating menace. Her background is presented rather dismally. As a ward of the state she has relied on the kindness of an elderly foster parent whose incapacity from the effects of a stroke leave her at the will of a new guardian, Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), a sadistic misogynist who is willing to file positive progress reports in return for sexual favors. This leads to an excruciating rape scene that is shot almost as unsparingly as the revenge scene she exacts. What Bjurman underestimated was Lisbeth’s capacity not only for physical violence, but to discover everything about someone using her skills with a computer.

Mara is a revelation as Lisbeth Salander. Both physically and emotionally she goes all-in with her portrayal. From the multiple piercings to the detailed tattoos and the punk/emo wardrobe and hairstyles, it's hard to believe that the same sweet girl who opened "The Social Network" as Mark Zuckerberg's girlfriend is the same actress we see in this film. As the stoic Salander, Mara is able to convey so much emotion without changing the expression on her face.  It's an incredible transformation she pulls off as an actress and yet keeps so much of her performance minimal.

Craig is a great balance to Mara's bold performance. Thankfully the Bond movies were on hiatus over the past few years to give Craig an opportunity to play this role. In addition to the two stellar lead performances, Fincher gets great acting out of Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard and Joley Richardson.

My Say :

The story was shortened of course for the theatrical presentation but that is a given. If you didn’t read the books and are interested in seeing a good movie that is not for the faint of heart this may be for you. Note this is not for the kiddos, as there is violence and rape, so checkout Chipwrecked or something a little lighter if you’re going with littles.

Let's be honest, I don't like to read much. I'd much rather watch a movie or TV series than sit down and try to read a book.  Maybe it's because I have a little add in me but mostly it's because the movie-going experience is much more engaging. I'm sure Larsson's book is incredible but I don't feel like I've missed anything by not reading it. Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zallian have created a brilliant movie that can stand on its own as far as I'm concerned. I also have to mention the great score put together by Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch. Once again, the two have created a supporting soundtrack that is minimal in tone but completely balances the action on screen.

Some of the content I might not have agreed with from a moral point of view, and some of it was offensive, but I cannot fault a movie for daring to show what happens in reality all the time. It was honest, it was harsh, but it was real, and I think that’s what counts.

"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" succeeds in all aspects of film-making and narrowly slides in at the top of my list of best movies of 2012. Great movie to start the year!

Rating: 8/10