Hacker meets disgraced journalist
Based on Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, the plot unfolds as 23-year-old Lisbeth Salander (Mara), a viciously abused ward of the state, is hired to hack into the background of journalist Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig, quietly determined). Lisbeth senses Mikael is innocent of the libel charges against him.
Mikael is publicly disgraced when he loses the lawsuit filed by a corrupt businessman he exposed. He resigns as publisher of the Millenium magazine, only to receive an urgent call from the retired CEO of Vanger Industries.
Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer, heartbroken) hires Mikael to investigate the mysterious death of his grand-niece Harriet some 40 years earlier. Her killer torments Vanger by sending him a framed, pressed wild flower each year on his birthday, as Harriet used to do. Mikael seeks out Lisbeth to help him investigate.
Mara’s breakout role
You won’t forget Mara’s fierce intensity and pain. As feminist hero, Lisbeth survives on Happy Meals, brilliance and daring. She takes revenge on a social services guardian (Yorick van Wageningen) who rapes her, making a devil’s bargain for her independence.
Lisbeth’s harrowing life takes on added purpose when Mikael enlists her. “I want you to help me catch a killer of women,” he says. They begin to investigate a serial killer who has brutalized other women in the region with Old Testament zeal. Harriet’s body was never found. Lisbeth is hooked.
Mara also played Mark Zuckerberg’s girlfriend in Fincher’s The Social Network.
Remake rivals original
Fincher’s remake rivals the original. Still gritty, it stands out with beautiful cinema and smooth transitions. The sound is sleek and evocative. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the edgy score.
Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth gives you a sweeping view of northern Sweden, frosty and bleak. There’s creeping dread as Mikael meets the feuding members of the Vanger clan, which includes Nazis, rapists and deviants.
Violence, beauty mingle
Many scenes are stunning. Lisbeth’s careening motorbike roars. Mikael confronts a suspect. A fiery explosion illuminates the night sky. Violent scenes, including two rapes and a torture sequence, are ugly and terrifying but less protracted than in the 2009 Swedish language film.
Ace actors add drama
Spot on performances include Stellan Skarsgard as nefarious Martin Vanger; Robin Wright as Erika, Mikael’s lover at Millenium, and Goran Visnjic as a social services exec who tries to protect Lisbeth.
Fincher’s decision to include an affair between Lisbeth and Mikael has drawn criticism. The affair seems a device to tame Lisbeth, portraying her as a woman who wants to date a “nice man” after all. The goth, bisexual heroine is more complex than that.
In the original film, sexual tension between Lisbeth and Mikael is wisely left to simmer beneath the surface.
Fincher, who has practiced Transcendental Meditation for over 35 years, sets a calm, relentless tone. You get the feeling that good will triumph.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remains true to the novel but doesn’t bog down in complexity, thanks to an excellent screenplay from Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List).
Women transcend violence
The resolution of the mystery circles back to women escaping violence. It’s possible to forgive an find peace. Lisbeth still searches for love, but at least she has found a purpose. (4.5 out of 5 stars)
If you like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you might enjoy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009).
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2011 / R / 2 hours, 38 min
Cast Overview: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson, Geraldine James, Goran Visnjic, Donald Sumpter, Ulf Friburg
Director: David Fincher
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller