The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I have been interested in the Stieg Larsson Millennium series of novels ever since I did the research for my review of the Music from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy album. The story sounded interesting and I found the main character, Lisbeth Salander, to be incredibly intriguing. The album featured music from the original trilogy of Swedish films based on the book. I thought about checking out the novels just when an American adaptation of the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, hit the theaters. I haven’t yet read the books, but I did have an opportunity to check out the new film.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a murder mystery/thriller starring Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, co-owner of Millennium Magazine. Mikael has just been dealt a crushing blow, losing a libel suit brought against him by a crooked businessman named Hans-Erik Wennerström (Ulf Friberg) to the tune of quite a large sum of money. Devastated and on the verge of giving up, Mikael is shocked when he is approached by Swedish business magnate Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) who wishes to hire him.
Under the guise of writing Henrik Vanger’s memoirs, Mikael is to investigate and discover what happened to Henrik’s grandniece Harriet, who disappeared forty years ago. Fearing her dead and guilty over blowing her off when she wanted to talk to him the last time he ever saw her again, Henrik wants Mikael to dig into the sordid details of his family, for Henrik believes that Harriet was murdered by a member of the family. In exchange for his work, Henrik will give Mikael dirt on Hans-Erik Wennerström.
As the investigation moves forward and becomes, Mikael requests an assistant and ends up with the very same individual that Vanger’s attorney used to investigate Mikael, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Lisbeth has some…issues. As her employer states, she has had a rough life, having been used and abused since her early childhood. Considered a ward of the state thanks to an act of vengeance she committed on her father when she was twelve, Lisbeth is somewhat of an outcast, and makes every effort to keep people away. When people get close…well, Lisbeth knows all too well what happens when the wrong people get too close.
Lisbeth becomes an invaluable asset to Mikael thanks to her photographic memory, attention to detail and impressive computer hacking abilities. But the closer they come to the truth, the more dangerous things become for both of them. Will the unlikely investigative duo uncover the truth about what happened to Harriet before her murderer tires of their intrusion into the Vanger family’s livelihood?
In a word, all I can say to describe my feelings about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is: WOW! This movie was amazingly entertaining from the very opening credits. The avant-garde opening moments of the film depicting sexual situations and violence through artistic CGI representation is enough to catch your attention instantly. We learn about Mikael and Lisbeth simultaneously through alternating scenes long before we ever see them working together. Mikael is a somewhat interesting character, but it is Lisbeth who is charismatic and captivating. As we watch displays of her intelligence and investigative abilities intermingled with the atrocious acts committed against her, we become invested in her and hopeful for a good outcome. We root for her throughout the film and cheer for her every victory.
Rooney Mara is completely unrecognizable in this role, for which she had to undergo numerous piercings and a rather drastic haircut and dye job. She does an amazing job as Lisbeth Salander, portraying her with just enough vulnerability under that surface of steely vengeance and single-mindedness to make the character not only believable, but someone we want to see succeed. Daniel Craig is believable as a man who believes he has failed at life and business and finds a new reason to live through this investigation and his partnership with Lisbeth. The two make a surprisingly likeable duo.
Robin Wright makes an appearance as Erika Berger, Mikael’s partner in more ways than one, but she takes mostly a backseat in this story. Christopher Plummer is adorable as Henrik Vanger, a man who loathes most of his family, but expresses a genuine love for the grandnephew and grandniece he became the guardian of so many decades ago. I absolutely loved how he described his family and his sorrow and guilty feelings about his missing grandniece seem completely genuine and heartfelt. What else would one expect from such a master in his field? Stellan Skarsgård, Yorick Van Wageningen and Joely Richardson also contribute some notable performances. It was also nice to see Goran Višnjić as Lisbeth’s boss Dragan Armansky as I haven’t seen him in much since his stint on ER.
The story of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo itself is quite a fun mystery to solve with enough twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing throughout the entire movie. I loved the fact that, just when I thought I had things figured out, there was more mystery to unravel. I should make the viewing audience aware that this is not a movie to take your kids to see as there are some sexually explicit and violent scenes in the film. These scenes are not in there gratuitously, but serve to enhance the film’s characters and to explain their later behaviors.
I also enjoyed that there was more left to the story even after the mystery was solved. The ending left things open for the next film which I will be first on line to see - I want to know what happens to Lisbeth next!