Let’s get this out there up front: I have not read the Stieg Larsson novel on which this movie is based. Nor have I seen the original Swedish film adaptation. Neither have I read any of the hundreds of articles written about said book or either of the movies. I come at this much ballyhooed project with a blank slate.
It’s pretty good. I now understand why it has so many fans — unlike the “Twilight” series, the popularity of which I will never understand.
For the precious few among you who are unfamiliar with the story, it goes like this: Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a journalist caught up in a scandal over his latest work. He’s approached by the enigmatic Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), who wants him to investigate a 40-year-old missing persons case involving his niece.
Elsewhere, a heavily pierce and tattooed young woman named Lisbeth Salander struggles to get by despite her talents as a computer hacker. She’s been declared a ward of the state due to unspecified mental health issues. The man who controls her purse-strings is, well, to call him sleazy would be vastly understating it.
These two story lines converge when Mikael hires Lisbeth to be his research assistant. As the duo dig deeper into the mystery they risk putting their own lives in danger.
With a bizarre, hypnotic opening credits sequence, it’s clear from the beginning the director David Fincher is right at home in this dark, disturbed world. “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is at times brutal, at times confusing, at times thrilling and always compelling. I’m well known for complaining when films run too long but this one held my attention throughout its 2.5-hour-plus running time.
On the negative side, the film does have a few too many endings and it’s difficult to keep up with the investigation (I think you’re just supposed to assume that the leads know what they’re doing and that they’re very good at it, so don’t sweat the details). I was also disappointed in the reveal of the villain, as it seemed too obvious.
What makes the film work are the moody atmospherics and strong performances, especially Rooney Mara in the title role. Her performance is captivating and she really holds the whole thing together.