Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Sarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen, and Joely Ticharsdon
Music By: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Distributed By: Columbia Pictures
Budget: $100 million
Runtime: 158 minutes
I approached this film with minimal knowledge of what it was I was about to see. I only knew three things for sure: it is based on a book, there is a Swedish version that came out in 2009, and that a girl rapes a guy with a dildo. That being said I absolutely loved the film. From what I’ve been able to tell, most people love the book, and by extension of that, the film(s), because of the main character Lisbeth. I have to say she was quite the character, unique enough to be memorable and awesome enough to help keep interest in the plot; that being said I really found myself more drawn into the story of Mikael trying to find the killer of young Harriet.
[Warning: the following contains spoilers and descriptions of things from (graphic) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, reader discretion is advised]
IMDB summarizes the plot as “Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.” As I mentioned earlier, the plot is really what kept me interested in the film, not Salander. What really interested me was who the killer was, how he or she managed to kill Harriet without being found, and why he or she was killing these other women in a ritualistic fashion. Sadly I did not get all of those answers. We learn the identity of the killer, but we never really learn his motives. The tagline of the film is ‘Evil with Evil Shall Be Expelled,” and I assume that is supposed to be the murderer’s train of thought, but it is never truly established as the killer is long dead by the time we catch up with his crimes. His son is continuing his murder spree, but he doesn’t take it the biblical route his father did, which really makes it less interesting. When Salander and Mikael were researching the old murders they were incredibly brutal, and all had a biblical passage to support or justify the killing. One women had her arms cut off, another had a parakeets shoved up her vagina, others beat to death with a rock, and all of them raped before their gruesome death. Why the killer did this and how he got away with it was what was the most interesting to me. The resolution to the Harriet case was satisfactory, but not particularly surprising. It occurred to my midway through that she was most likely still alive since no body was found. I wish the religious killings had been focused on more, but I’m happy with the way the plot concluded.
Lisbeth Salander’s life is followed alongside the story of Daniel Craig’s character Mikael as he tries to solve the forty-year-old case of a missing girl. After watching the film I started analyzing what I had seen, and I began to wonder why I had seen all of those events of Lisbeth’s life. None of it ties into the missing girl story and all of it could have been replaced with a few lines of dialogue. I’m glad I saw it because Lisbeth is undoubtedly the most interesting character and without her story the film would have been far more boring, but I fail to see why it was important to include those scenes. I know that those who have read the books will tell me that this film is almost a straight forward adaption from the novel with only one or two major changes, and that the issues I’m having with the film are issues that I would have with the book as well. I have not read the book, however, and since I have seen the film I can judge it. I absolutely loved seeing Salander’s life events outside of the main plot. I suppose you could call it a side plot, I just had an issue justifying why it was all important to the main plot of Harriet’s killer. Then again I may be missing something since I have not read the series. As I’m sure someone will correct me. Moving on.
To be perfectly honest I didn’t really connect with any of the characters in the film. Lisbeth is a psychopath, which made her cool but ultimately gave her character a sense of being to ‘out there’ for me to really be able to connect with. Mikael Blomkvist was another weird character for me. I liked him at times and at the same time I never really was fond of him. The rest of the cast is mostly the dead girl’s family, all of who are Nazis, mean-spirited, or murders. I do believe the characters were portrayed in a way that accurately reflected what the author of the book was trying to do. All of the characters are flawed by design, to more accurately reflect humanity. This is actually a plus for the film. I remember the end of the film where Salander is getting ready to give Mikael a present, and she finds him still with his, I’m not sure what to call her but I’ll use ‘girlfriend.’ The scene tore me up. It was incredibly sad. So maybe I did connect with Salander, just not on a level that made her real to me. There is a big difference between a character being real and a character being sympathetic, and Salander fits into the latter category. I’d also like to quickly mention how impressed I am at the dedication of Rooney Mara when playing Salander. To prepare for the role Mara went out and got body piercings (eyebrow, nipples, etc.), took up smoking, and learned to ride a motorcycle. That alone is very impressive but then when you see her performance as Salander it is just the icing on the cake (a cake that was directed by David Fincher, one of my favorite directors.) The characters in the film are very tightly controlled, each one serves a strict purpose and displays a strict message about humanity.
Overall this is a great film and I highly recommend it to everyone. Be warned, it is graphic. There are two rape scenes and multiple sex/nude scenes. If you can handle that, then I should think it a crime for you not to see this magnificent film. I would have been happy to give this film a 9/10 if not for the plot issues I mentioned above, and those are issues with the novel itself, so I do not place blame on the film for them. Go see it, you will not be disappointed.