If you are looking for a holiday movie that makes you feel lighter than air as you leave the movie theater, then you should avoid seeing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But, if you like to see a story that will have you entranced and at points squirming in your seat – than this is just the right film for you. Adapted from trio of books known as The Millennium Trilogy, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is the first of the three novels by Stieg Larsson.
Coming off his great success last year with The Social Network, director David Fincher has returned to the screen with a much edgier film, but just as good. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, adapted for the screen by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List), is the story of two misfits. Mikael is a journalist who has just lost a large liable suit. His professionalism and his bank account have both been hit hard and he really has no place to turn. Lisbeth is unconventional, unsociable but smart as a whip. The two come together to solve a mystery.
Henrik (Christopher Plummer) is the patriarch of a very wealthy and dastardly family. He has been searching for the murderer of his dear niece Harriet. Knowing he may not live longer, he has finally decided to get help to solve this forty year old crime. He enlists the help of Mikael to hopefully find the answer that has avoided him for decades. When Mikael becomes overwhelmed with the task he seeks the help of Lisbeth. Both characters have story lines outside the main story. Lisbeth’s is sexually explicit and violent. But their personal matters drive Mikael and Lisbeth together and they become a succinct unit ready to take on just about anything. And they do.
The story of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a nice choice for Fincher’s talents. He is proving to be a master at producing a slick, modern style of storytelling. Not one moment of this quite long film is overdone or extraneous. As all good directors do, he shares the spotlight with screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Oscar® winner for Schindler’s List) and the musical talents of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (both also Oscar® winners for their score in The Social Network). Zallian provides the dialogue and story line while Reznor and Ross provide the very important mood.
Rooney Mara is more than exceptional playing Lisbeth. She is completely convincing as the emotionally disturbed yet smart woman that possesses possibilities for reform. Mara’s performance is stellar and just astounding. Some of the more brutal scenes would shy away many young performers. Her hard edge style and unemotional fortitude could very well cause an upset at Oscar® time. Daniel Craig excels at playing the straight guy in comparison to Lisbeth’s outrageous characterizations. Christopher Plummer, Joely Richardson and Stellan Skarsgård all provide the necessary drama and suspense as supporting characters.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is definitely one of my favorites of the year. The story line may be just a little too daring for the Oscar® crowd, but the brave and brutal performance by Rooney Mara should entitle her to a nomination. Rooney is currently nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in this role. This performance might be the black horse to win over the odds favorite of Viola Davis in The Help. I highly recommend this film, but please do take my warning that some of the film’s scenes are very brutal in nature and could be offensive to some.
For Oscar buffs, here is my take:
Most likely nominations:
Best Actress – Rooney Mara
Outside Chance for Nominations:
Sound (both sound awards)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is rated R for disturbing violent content including rape, grisly images, sexual material, nudity and language and has a runtime of 2 hours and 32 minutes.
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Whatever your movie choice this week, please remember your movie theater etiquette: silence your cell phones & no texting, please don’t talk during the film and remove your children if they become a distraction to other audience members. Don’t forget that laughing, crying and cheering are always approved behavior and even encouraged.
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-Kay Shackleton is a film historian with special focus on Silent Films, see her work on SilentHollywood.com