Susan Granger's review of 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'
Updated 12:39 pm, Sunday, January 1, 2012
David Fincher's American version of Stieg Larsson's best-seller revolves around disgraced Stockholm financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and androgynous, enigmatic Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an avenging, computer-hacking investigator. They're hired by an aging, wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), to solve the mystery of what happened to his beloved grand-niece, Harriet, at a family gathering back in 1966. The common belief is that she was murdered by a family member. But who?
Living on isolated Hedeby Island in the remote north, the Vangers are a bizarre assortment of dysfunctional characters. Taking over the family business from his late, anti-Semitic, Nazi father, there's genial Martin (Stellan Skarsgard) whose sister Anita (Joely Richardson) left long ago to become an investment banker in London. Frode (Steven Berkoff) is the caretaker, while Cecilia (Geraldine James) is Henrik's curious grand-niece. Meanwhile, 24 year-old, bisexual Lisbeth is still a ward of the state and forced to report to a bullying, exploitive bureaucrat, Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), when her long-time guardian suffers a stroke.
Working from "Schindler's List" screenwriter Steve Zaillian's astutely compressed adaptation, director David Fincher ("The Social Network," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Se7en," "Fight Club," "Zodiac") sets a fast pace, keeping the adrenaline pumping and indulging an inordinate amount of the 158-minute running time to savage violence, including hardcore rape, graphic torture and brutal retribution, disturbingly photographed by Jeff Cronenweth and edited by Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall.
While Daniel Craig scowls convincingly, casting relative newcomer Rooney Mara, who played Mark Zuckerberg's girlfriend in "The Social Network," as the defiant, multi-pierced, dragon-tattooed, grungy Goth girl is brilliant, and Robin Wright scores as Blomkvist's married editor/lover.
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The only problem is: to those who have read Larsson's novels and have seen any of the highly successful Swedish "Millennium" film/TV versions, the cult crime concept is already familiar, which removes much of the inherent whodunit suspense.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is an entertaining if blatantly sexual, sado-masochistic 7, inducing thrills and chills.