Mikael Blomkvist is having some kind of year. A journalist, Blomkvist posted an article in his magazine, Millennium, about a particular Swedish socialite that landed him in court in a dispute over the prose’s contents. Losing the battle, Blomkvist was disgraced, resigned from his office and was fined over $650,000.
Lisbeth Salander is having an even worse year. Her accounts have been seized and the new administrator of her funds forces her into acts of sexual depravity as a condition for his cheque writing. The pierced, tattooed and goth looking young bi-sexual seems without purpose in life – living one day to the next. Basically, surviving.
But when the elder of a wealthy family hires Blomkvist to assist in an investigation in the disappearance of his niece over 40-years-ago, Blomkvist and Salander end up working together on a case that will also reveal a serial killer of women who has stalked the Swedish countryside for decades.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is directed by David Fincher (he of last year’s The Social Network) and is based on the Swedish novel by Stieg Larsson of the same name and the Swedish adaptation of the book that premiered in 2009. Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist and the plum role of Lisbeth went to Rooney Mara who appeared in The Social Network but is more associated in her role as Nancy Holbrook in 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Comparisons to the book and to the original film would be unfair, so we will try our best to judge The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) on its own merits. On those merits, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an above average thriller that cautiously yet flowingly allowed for a multi-layered film about sex, torture, mystery and murder to progress at an even and balanced pace.
Although Fincher allowed for the characters to speak English he was daring enough to keep the film based in Sweden as to not American-ize the characters and the setting. This meant that Craig, Mara and the supporting cast that included Christopher Plummer and Robin Wright had to speak with slight Swedish accents – all of which did no disservice to the neutral northern country.
Rooney Mara had the most to gain and lose by taking on the role embodied Noomi Rapace in the Swedish films that make up Larson’s trilogy. Mara proved to be force and her performance as the troubled young computer hacker will surely net some serious consideration when the awards season kicks into high gear this January.
With its multi-layers, there is much going on at any given time and the separation of story and the development of individual characters until they combine efforts might be taxing for the casual film-goer. At the heart of the film is Blomkvist and Lisbeth’s clue gathering that leads them to a conclusion that there might actually be a murderer amongst the family that has hired them to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance. Craig and Mara have good chemistry together yet are able to show distance in their relationship making the characters that more believable.
At 158 minutes we can attest to the film being too lengthy to maintain all its high points. Once the mystery of the missing women is solved most might feel compelled to begin shifting back on their jackets draped over the theatre chair in an attempt to burst out into the theatre’s parking lot. But beware, that is only one of the many storylines that have to come to a contemporary close before the end credits role. It’s not exactly Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in its drawn out concluding chapters, but we still would have liked to have watched it at 1.5X the speed.
Personally, we think that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will polarize a good portion of its paying audience. Its sex seemed graphic (more is left to your imagination than shown on screen) and its subject matter doesn’t exactly run mainstream. Still, the performances alone – especially that of Mara – are worth the price of admission and how often do you get to say that you screened a complex thriller in today’s sugar-coated Hollywood output?