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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo | Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgard, Christopher Plummer | Review

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

A tough, computer savvy, 23 year old bi sexual, goth biker with several facial piercings and body tattoos forms an alliance with a much older investigative journalist to solve a cold case murder mystery in director David Fincher's English language film based on Stieg Larsson's 2005 international best seller.  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, is the first of Larsson's Millenium trilogy, that was originally made into a 2009 Swedish film by Niels Arden Oplev.   Movies about gruesome serial killings/murder mysteries are right up Fincher's sleeve considering his past work,  thrillers Se7en and Zodiac, that explore the most evil, darkest side of humans.

Working from Steve Zaillain's taut script, Fincher's movie stars Rooney Mara, best known for her small role as Mark Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend that inspired him to create Facebook in “Social Network”.   It is hard to believe this is the same actress, since her physical transformation into a hardened former victim turned avenging angel is amazing.  She commands the screen by turning in a committed, fierce, star making performance.

Daniel Craig co-stars as Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist  in financial ruin after beig convicted   of libel by a crooked financier (Ulf Friberg).  He is called by Dirch Frode (Steven Berkoff), the attorney for Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a retired old industrialist, who offers Mikael the job of writing his memoirs, but in truth it involves looking into something that has plagued Vanger for forty years. That is finding out what happened to his beloved grand niece Harriet, who mysteriously disappeared in 1966. Vanger believes Harriet, who was only 16 at the time, might have been murdered by a member of his own family, whom he calls a despicable group that include drunks, a recluse and Nazis.  In exchange for Mikael solving the case, Vanger promises to give him information that could overturn his libel case and prove he was right.

Accepting the job, Mikael leaves behind his editor and married girlfriend, Erika (Robin Wright) and heads to the isolated island estate where Vanger and his nearby relatives live and moves into a freezing cold cottage.  Soon he is introduced to Henrik's nephew/Harriet's brother Martin (a chilling Stellan Skarsgaard) and gets to meet up with Harriet's cousin Anita (Jolie Richardson).

It takes over an hour into the film before Lizbeth Salander and Blomkvist eventually join forces.  Back in Stockholm, 23 year old Lizbeth, who was originally hired by Vanger's security firm to do a background check on Mikael, has her own issues.  As a ward of the state, she must meet regularly with Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), her appointed social worker, a sadistic sexual predator that uses his power over her allowance to control her.  He begins with forcing Lisbeth into performing oral sex, and then, in a later meeting, escalates to a violent rape scene.  But, proving she refuses to ever again be a victim of unwarranted abuse like in her childhood, she retaliates in a brutally graphic, revenge scenario that turns the tables on him.  She may be skinny and waif-like, but this is one angry chick that you don't want to mess with.

When Mikael realizes he needs an assistant, Lisbeth, a genius at hacking into private computer files, is hired to help him dig deep into the decades old mystery and she proves invaluable. For Lisbeth, this is a chance to avenge a series of heinous crimes against women, something she, obviously has experienced on a personal level. The investigation soon leads to the discovery of serial killings which, in turn,  opens the door to a can of worms involving, secrets, lies, incest and Nazi sympathizers.

Although very different in manner, appearance and skills, Mikeal and Lizbeth, form a compelling partnership.  Scary looking, with a cold protective shell, Lizbeth is the more aggressive of the two.  She seduces Mikael and eventually saves his life, while showing a hint of a vulnerable side when something she has never experienced, romantic feelings, takes hold but is not reciprocated.

I haven't read the book, nor seen the original Swedish film adaptation, so I can't compare. As a stand alone piece of cinema, I have to say Fincher delivers a suspenseful, intriguing story. The entire cast is excellent, but Mara is mesmerizing in the title role,  a  breakout performance that shouldn't be missed. You can't help but be drawn into and sympathize with the complex, troubled character she brings to life. As The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Mara leaves an indelible impression.

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