Written by: Steven Zaillian
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright
Even coming from different worlds, having a common cause can bring people together under even the most grueling circumstances. Things do not get nobler than taking down a serial killer known for murdering women, which becomes the central focus amidst many strands in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. A film that proves to be difficult to watch on more than one occasion but remains excellently crafted.
Disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is still financially recovering from a damaging libel lawsuit when he gets the opportunity to solve a long-dormant murder case. In the attempts to put the pieces together he joins forces with the resourceful Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) who must also deal with being under the purview of an abusive government handler.
Choosing to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes with the acknowledgment that you’re about to see some dark stuff. Having never read the novels or knowing a single thing about the story, the events transpiring in this story are brutal to get through. From straight-up sexual assault to some harsh murders, derangement is overflowing with the men of this story, but when sifting through it all a truly poignant tale follows through, which ultimately dictates the overall quality. There are moments unfortunately seared into my brain but it all serves the larger story in an impactful manner, which is what matters the most.
Solving this serial murder case brings two people down in the dumps due to their circumstances, one on a financial and reputation level and the other in a physical, emotional, and psychological sense. Both are imperfect humans but Lisbet and Mikael have the common passion to take on a truly dangerous and harmful situation. Solving a perceived murder becomes one thing but when it involves poking around the lives of very affluent people brings a separate type of danger and it becomes evident throughout this feature.
Taking place in the winter months of Stockholm, the cold and frigid temperatures of the area play a major role in setting the atmosphere. In this setting, much can be hidden but a yearning for warmth remains, which becomes evident when the relationship between Mikael and Lisbet continues to evolve. The coldness of the atmosphere does well to pair with the people the duo must interact with for more information on Harriet’s disappearance. Warmth does not exist in those circles and most of the conversations feel similar to getting hit in the face by a snowball. Additionally, the cleanliness of the snow out in this expansive house further reflects the unsettling tidiness at times with the members of the family set to be asked questions. A perfect marriage of environment and characters for it all to be put together in a meaningful manner.
The actual investigative aspects of the feature involve plenty of research but the way David Fincher captures the process unsurprisingly comes with plenty of dynamism. Simple conversations contain a thrilling element to them because of it all being in service of a larger cause and slickness displayed by this master filmmaker ensures no moment feels dull. Fincher’s selection in choosing this project comes unsurprisingly seeing as he’s no stranger to handling depressingly dark material and making them incredibly engaging. If anything they have continually proven to be his best works with Se7en certainly being the true jewel in the cap within this genre. In a similar fashion, he navigates this story well in ensuring its taking with a certain level of seriousness necessary for it to translate to success. Visually, his film never disappoints and the decisions he makes in framing conversations and the setting all contribute to this being an enthralling and immersive experience overall.
Walking away from this feature it would be impossible to not acknowledge the committed and brilliant performance by Rooney Mara. The levels to which she went to this character go beyond anything I could imagine and it evidently paid off with the way she portrays this character. She carries the pain and trauma Lisbet has on her shoulders every day and completely disappears into the role. At times I found myself forgetting Mara was in the lead role and this just not being Lisbet. The same cannot be said for Daniel Craig, who is still good in the role, but from the very start, we all know and do not forget Craig exists in the story. This film begins and ends with Rooney Mara and she ensured to put on a show with her interpretation of this character. Truly a sight to behold.
Difficult to sit through at times but still an enthralling cinematic experience, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo delivers on all fronts. It never shies away from its dour source material and embraces the character development of its main character. I do not blame anyone for shutting off this movie after seeing some of the events that occur, but in the end, this film does not display it in a gratuitous manner but rather to further the plot towards its meaningful resolution. In the end, it remains a story about catching a killer only interested in harming women, and through its themes and revelations about certain characters, this fantastically conceived and executed motion picture shines a light on a deeply disturbing world where men hold power over women. What they do with the power gets incredibly disturbing. While meaningful it’s still dour and I appreciated living within it for the film’s runtime.