- Running time:
- 158 minutes
- Daniel Craig -
- Mikael Blomkvist
- Rooney Mara -
- Lisbeth Salander
- Christopher Plummer -
- Henrik Vanger
- Stellan Skarsgard -
- Martin Vanger
- Steven Berkoff -
- Dirch Frode
After a scandal costs him his job with activist magazine Millennium, Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is recruited by wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to help solve the decades-old disappearance of Vanger’s teenage niece, Harriet. The search brings Mikael into contact with bisexual goth-punk computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a tough girl with a troubled past. Together, Mikael and Lisbeth uncover buried secrets of the Vanger family including sexual perversions and Nazi ties.
The buzz: The last time that exact same plot description ran was with the review of 2010’s Swedish-language international hit “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” At that time, Hollywood was already planning to turn late author Stieg Larsson’s bestseller into an English-language film and David Fincher (fresh off “The Social Network”) agreed to take on the task. Working from a script by Steven Zaillian (“Moneyball”), Fincher selected “Social” supporting actress Mara for the coveted role of Salander.
The verdict: Hollywood’s motivation for trying to cash in on a hot title is clear. It’s not so easy to divine Fincher’s reasons for signing on to a project facing inevitable comparisons to bestselling source material and a recent cinematic adaptation. Especially when the central storyline is essentially a sexed-up, hard R-rated version of something you’d find in a crime procedural series on CBS or basic cable. Did Fincher just want to exercise some pop storytelling muscles? Deliver a thinner, comparatively safer retread of the obsessive detective work he explored in “Zodiac”? Sign up for a movie that sounded like a probable bet for commercial success? Seize the opportunity to create an awesome opening credits sequence harkening back to his music video origins? All of the above?
Of course, there’s Lisbeth. An instantly iconic heroine—part feminist avenging angel, part lonely outsider too lost in her own head to make personal connections—she’s one hell of a character for both a filmmaker and actress to tackle. Fincher surely knew he found the right leading lady in Mara, who blazes through the tedium of the Vanger family mystery and Blomkvist’s banal crusading to give the audience something singularly worth watching. Mara achieves the same star-making impact Noomi Rapace brought to the Swedish film, proving every bit as captivating in her blend of strength and vulnerability.
She’s also blessed with a filmmaker capable of using cinematic techniques to reveal a character’s inner conflicts. Where this version surpasses its predecessor is in sheer style—Fincher’s sleek visuals, propulsive editing and pulsating music cues (including an original score by “Social Network” collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) lend the shaky material a greater degree of tension, momentum and visual intrigue, while allowing Salander’s tightly coiled rage to surface in a few shrewdly selected set pieces. There’s no question that if you only see one “Dragon Tattoo,” this should be the one. But the question of whether anyone needs to see it at all remains.
Did you know? This is the first Fincher film to have an accompanying clothing line. H&M released exclusive items by the movie’s costume designer Trish Summerville in select stores and online, stirring up some controversy over ties to the film’s graphic sexual violence.
Follow Metromix's Geoff Berkshire on Twitter: @geoffberkshire
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