The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Directed by: David Fincher Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright Running Time: 2 hr 38 mins Rating: R Release Date: December 20, 2011
PLOT: Based on the best-selling novel, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) gets some unexpected help in his search for a woman who has been missing for 40 years by Lisbeth Salander (Mara), a computer hacker.
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of the bestselling novel will flock to see this film. If you didn't know this already, it's a pretty ugly story, with a lot of violence toward women.
It seems like we all know about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I have seen the three Swedish films, most of you have probably read the trilogy. There may be a feeling of "been there, done that." Luckily, David Fincher is here to help us shake that off. He's a natural fit for the film, with movies like Seven and Zodiac in his back pocket. It doesn't hurt that he brought along some movie stars and talented actors for this (thrill) ride. Craig, Plummer and Skarsgård give the American version a more impressive wattage of power than its Swedish counter-part. Those names won't be the ones talked about with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This film is all about the female lead, even if the character (and most women in the film) endure horrific violence.
Rooney Mara is clearly a break-out star as Lisbeth Salander. If you're unfamiliar, Lisbeth is Batman. Actually, she's darker than the Dark Knight, without technically receiving superhero status. OK, before I rave about her for a while, I might as well tell you what this film is all about in case you live under a rock with no books or foreign films under said rock.
Mikael is a disgraced journalist who runs Millennium magazine. Now, since he's desperate for work, he investigates the disappearance of Henrik's niece. Problem is, this happened almost 40 years ago. This puts Mikael in this little cabin on Vanger's family estate. Slowly, the mystery unravels. Meanwhile, almost completely separate from this is the story of Lisbeth. She's a hacker whose typical meal would be Coke, ramen noodles and cigarettes. She's covered in piercings and walks around like she owns the place. It's an insanely powerful character and Mara completely makes it work. There is power and vulnerability in every second of her performance. It's a great performance even if you might not be able to watch every second of what this character must endure. Seriously, it's violent.
It's not just Mara who makes this movie tick. The music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the quality backseat Craig takes and the entire look of the film from Fincher's team absorbs you. Even the opening credits are something spectacular. Mara thrashes around looking like Venom from "Spider-Man" (in a good way, I swear). The setting is gorgeously bleak as well. The remake of The Thing didn't make me feel the cold. This one had me wishing for a blanket in the theater.
The issue with the film comes down to the actual purpose of it all. The story, specially the beginning and end, aren't nearly as gripping as the middle. The working relationship of Mikael and Lisbeth, and the mystery at hand is much more entertaining than anything else about their lives. It's rare for a film to have the middle be the best chunk. I was shocked the last 30 minutes is even included.
Fincher has made another quality film. It's what you expect. There is the hope that he's capable of more. I only felt greatness for moments in this film. I'm more interested in where he can go with the sequels. The Swedish films take a dive after the first. We'll see if that's because of inherent flaws in the story, or if a different direction is all the trilogy needs to shine.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10