The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Rated – R
Directed by David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer
Was there really any doubt that David Fincher wouldn’t do right by the best-selling novel? From his credentials, Fincher has been pounding out some of the best thrillers in the past fifteen years (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac), and even some of the best dramas in recent memory (Benjamin Button, The Social Network). Of late, he’s found a harmony between critics and the mainstream film, collecting several Oscar nominations from movies that tally impressive worldwide grosses. So like I said again, was there any doubt Fincher wouldn’t do it again?
Fincher returns to form where most people know him best, the edge-of-your-seat thriller that is equally violent as it is engaging. Adapted by screenwriter Steve Zaillian, the 158 minute run-time of the film doesn’t drag, which makes the experience of watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that much more draining. For those who have read the books or have seen the Swedish movie version, the Fincher version isn’t a carbon copy or a remake. It’s simply an adaptation and the team of Fincher and Zaillian has produced something very special.
The story is complex with a number of characters that will spin your head silly if you don’t pay attention. Mikael has lost a libel case in court and has his entire career in a downfall, so to retreat from his situation he begins an investigation for Henrik Vanger. Henrik wants Mikael to use his reporting expertise to discover new information about the disappearance of his great-niece 40 years ago. Mikael accepts the job without acknowledging Henrik’s warning about his family.
Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander shows off some very impressive hacking skills as she teams up with Mikael to research the Vanger family. Played by Rooney Mara, she gives a brilliant performance as the troubled and disturbed goth chick with a mysterious past, but still embodies a character you want to root for. If her slender stature or soft-spoken routine gives off an idea that she’s weak, then you’re dead wrong. Mara embodies the violence and rage that is always screaming to break out. Trust me, you don’t want to be around when the beast wakes up.
There is a very dark tone throughout the length of the film, shown by the murkiness of the island and plenty of low-lit rooms. Fincher always had an eye for setting the mood throughout a film, such as the constant pouring in Se7en. Even though there is quite a significant political back-story involving the health of the independent magazine company and unleashing the truth about the corrupt Hans-Erik Wennerstrom, the real power of the film lies in the murder mystery and how Mikael and Lisbeth work together to solve the mystery.
While Mikael is the main character, there is no question that Mara’s Lisbeth steals the show. Aside from her physical transformation, she does a great job showing very small doses of true emotion, but hiding it enough to make you doubt what she really cares about and why. This is certainly the coming out party for Rooney Mara who is a fantastic, young actress.
Fincher has received much success recently from mainstream dramas but the fate of the rest of the trilogy lies in the reception of this film. He certainly didn’t shy away from stretching the boundaries of its R-rating by including a very graphic rape scene. I personally would love for Fincher to continue the series because from just this film, he has started one hell of a movie trilogy.