“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is one of David Fincher’s best films, which is saying a lot. This psychological thriller was adapted from the novel of the same name by Swedish author Stieg Larsson and fits right into Fincher’s wheelhouse. It’s dark, intense and twisted, and it’s a must-see film.
The film follows the intertwined stories of two main characters: Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist, and Lisbeth Salander, a fiercely intelligent and unconventional computer hacker.
The film begins with Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a journalist at Millennium magazine, losing a high-profile libel case against corrupt businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström. With his reputation tarnished, Blomkvist feels he has no choice but to take a leave of absence from the magazine. He is then approached by wealthy retired industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), who offers him a job to investigate the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, who vanished 40 years ago. Vanger believes that Harriet was murdered by a member of his own dysfunctional family.
Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a skilled computer hacker with a troubled past, is introduced when she conducts a background check on Blomkvist for Vanger’s lawyer. Despite her social awkwardness and unorthodox appearance, Lisbeth is a brilliant investigator, and her report on Blomkvist ultimately leads to his hiring by Vanger.
As Blomkvist delves into the Vanger family history, he uncovers a series of brutal murders connected to Harriet’s disappearance. He realizes he needs assistance and, after learning about Lisbeth’s skills, recruits her to help him with the investigation. Together, they form an unlikely partnership, with Lisbeth using her hacking skills and Blomkvist’s journalistic expertise to unravel the mystery.
Rooney Mara as Lisbeth
Rooney Mara delivers a stunning and breathtaking performance as Lisbeth Salander, who is one of the more unique and compelling characters we’ve seen in years.
Mara was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar and delivers one of the best acting performances I’ve ever seen. She brings to life the fascinating character of Lisbeth, starting with her edgy, punk rock-inspired looks. The character is a natural blonde, so Mara’s eyebrows are a very light blonde while her funky hair with short bangs is died jet black, creating a haunting look that often makes it appear she has no eyebrows at all. So much of Mara’s acting here is done with her eyes, showing ranges of thoughts and emotions with a simple look. She’s also sexy as hell, making her an unforgettable character.
Lisbeth’s interactions with the creepy social worker Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen) are jarring, from the scenes of brutal sexual violence to her triumphant revenge scene. Fincher doesn’t hold back in telling this story and Mara is more than up to the task.
Mara also has excellent chemistry with Craig. Blomkvist shows up to Lisbeth’s apartment to confront her about her illegal investigative methods but also to recruit her for his project. He asks her, “How would you like to help me find a killer of women?” The look on Lisbeth’s face tells you so much about her character and Mara nails it.
Fincher brings it all together
Fincher initially didn’t picture Mara in the role as Lisbeth, but she won him over with her audition and he pushed to have her cast in the role. Armed with an excellent story and Craig and Mara in the lead roles, Fincher worked his magic to create an unforgettable film.
The entire cast is excellent, with Plummer, van Wageningen Stellan Skarsgård and Steven Berkoff standing out for their performances.
Fincher grabs our attention immediately with the sound and visuals of the opening title sequence. The look of the film is dark and realistic, matching the subject matter perfectly. Fincher is no stranger to intense dramas, and he doesn’t hold back with the more intense scenes of this film. Yet everything comes across as extremely realistic, which delivers maximum impact for the audience. He’s not playing for cheap thrills.
Before Fincher’s film, there was a Swedish film adaptation of the novel, released in 2009, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander and Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist. The Swedish film was followed by two sequels, adapting the subsequent novels in the series. The Swedish version is very good, but Fincher’s version takes things to another level.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” grossed a solid $232.6 million on a $90 million budget. It didn’t have a great opening weekend despite the buzz but it grew with word of mouth and excellent reviews. Many fans are hoping Fincher considers making sequels to the film. I certainly wouldn’t object to seeing more of Rooney Mara as Lisbeth.