The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
By Brian S.
Having never read Stieg Larsson’s multi-million selling whodunit by the same name, I had absolutely no idea of what I was getting into when I saw the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In a nutshell, an investigative journalist is hired to pry into the cupboards of a powerful Swedish business tycoon’s empire in an attempt to find out what happened to his beloved teenaged grand-niece who mysteriously disappeared some forty years before. Throw in an ex-Nazi, a creepy nephew, a decidedly anti-social computer expert/investigator, an ultra-sleazy state bureaucrat, the possibility of a serial killer; then dump in a healthy dose of mystery, consensual and non-consensual sex, retribution, and a dash of graphic violence; shake all these plot elements up and set it against the dreary winter backdrop of Stockholm and a suitably frozen and secluded Scandinavian island, and you have the makings of an intelligent thriller that is compelling and shocking.
Directed by David Fincher, written by Steven Zaillian, based on the novel by Stieg Larsson, and starring Daniel Craig (Mikhail Bloomqvist), Christopher Plummer (Henrik Vanger), Stellan Skarsgard (Martin Vangard), Rooney Mara (Lisbeth Salander), the film runs some 152 minutes.
The film begins as the elderly industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) engages a bi-sexual, disrespectful, and very complicated anti-social misfit to perform a thorough background check on a recently disgraced journalist, whom the tycoon has selected to look into the disappearance and presumed murder of his grand-niece. It’s not long before we learn that Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the girl with the dragon tattoo, is a troubled loner, who just happens to be brilliant when it comes to low-level espionage, and is a ward of the state, due to her history of violently lashing out against society and any authority figure.
To get out from under a libel case that had gone bad, the investigative journalist Mikhail Bloomqvist (Daniel Craig) accepts the job of unraveling the decades old mystery. After interviewing a retired police detective, the entire dysfunctional Vanger family, whose family tree includes Nazis, rapists, alcoholics, and murderers, and reviewing what little evidence remains, Mikhail comes to the conclusion the missing family member may be the victim of a serial killer who has run rampant for decades.
Lacking sufficient physical proof to link a number of unsolved murders to the industrialist’s grand-niece, Mikhail, upon discovering Lisbeth’s prowess at gaining access to restricted information, has an epiphany. The result of which is that he is convinced an assistant with her particular skill set will be instrumental in getting to the bottom of the missing girl’s whereabouts. So Mikhail sets about recruiting the fiercely independent computer genius. Unfortunately for him, Lisbeth doesn’t play well with others, and is decidedly distrustful of men. Not to mention the fact she is a bit preoccupied with keeping her abusive government ordered guardian as far away from her as possible. Wary of having a man in her life, Lisbeth is reluctant to participate in Mikhail’s case. That is, until she learns that the investigation in question is not just another probe into the affairs of a corrupt bureaucrat. As soon as she learns their combined efforts may lead to the capture a killer of women, Lisbeth signs on, and carries out her task with ruthless efficiency.
The pierced and tattooed heroine and rumpled, but unflappable journalist make an unlikely, but nevertheless, effective duo of crime solvers. The pair seem to feed off of each other’s strengths, and together they ferret out, and tie together a string of brutal murders that date back to the end of World War II.
As the case develops Lisbeth, seemingly devoid of all emotions, slowly begins to thaw and regain a modicum of her abandoned humanity. Mikhail and Lisbeth work well together, and Lisbeth grudgingly learns to respect the journalist’s competence. However, as events unfold she develops deeper feelings for the fair minded journalist who has treated her with respect and kindness.
Although the two sleuth’s have yet to prove it, the clues they unearthed seem to link the long forgotten murders to the missing grand-niece, and the corporation owned by Henrik Wagner appears to be the key that will unlock the mystery. As the pair work out the details, we the audience are introduced to a number of possible suspects. We witness a sickening abuse of power, and find ourselves cheering as the shockingly violent, punitive punishment is meted out. We are told about a series of grisly slayings tied together by Biblical quotes. We marvel at the ease in which millions of dollars are embezzled. We get a glimpse into the mind of a twisted psychopath, and ultimately find out what actually happened to the industrialist’s grand-niece.
Lisbeth, the dragon tattooed and pierced, goth heroine, portrayed by actress Rooney Mara, all but steals the show. And Daniel Craig, as the mild mannered journalist, is unwittingly relegated to the role of her sidekick. During the course of the movie, Lisbeth convincingly appears to be weak and vulnerable, intelligent and competent, complex and sexy, cold and calculating, and brutally vicious.
The most recent version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an American remake of the 2009 Swedish release of the same name that was directed by Niels Arden Oplev, and banked more than a hundred million dollars word wide. Overall, I found the complex story line of this noir thriller to be spellbinding, despite the fact it was painfully obvious (at least to me) who the real villain actually was.