They don’t call this the feel-bad movie of the year for nothing. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo takes its sweet time to arrive at a very unpleasant climax, making several vile stops along the way. It is a dark and disturbing look into a world where no one really wants to go, yet somehow we can’t look away. It’s heartbreaking and stomach-turning all at the same time.
Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is the co-owner and writer of Millennium magazine. The movie starts with him losing a libel lawsuit against shady billionaire businessman Hans-Erik WennerstrĂ¶m. As a consequence, he loses his job and faces jail time, but an intriguing offer comes along to provide an interesting diversion.
Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) is the retired CEO of Vanger Industries, one of Sweden’s largest steel and lumber companies. He asks Blomkvist to write his memoirs but mostly to find the culprit of a terrible family secret: the disappearance and presumed death of his niece, Harriet.
The girl was 16 years old when she vanished but that was about four decades ago. Vanger is certain that someone from his unsavoury extended family is to blame, but he is not certain who. He only knows that Harriet used to send him pressed flowers for his birthday every year, and those same greetings continued on even after her disappearance. The killer, he says, is trying to taunt him and drive him crazy.
To entice Blomkvist to take on this onerous and malodorous task, he offers him a lot of money as well as some secret and damaging files on WennerstrĂ¶m, who used to be a Vanger employee.
Blomkvist takes the unconventional assignment but soon realizes he needs help. There are several enigmatic and likely problematic members of the extended Vanger family.
That’s where Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) steps in. She is a keen investigator and a brilliant computer hacker. The only hindrance to her intelligence is her tendency towards antisocial behaviour. She doesn’t shake hands.
She helps Blomkvist to figure out the family tree and the possible suspects. There are some pretty antisocial types among the clan, not the least of which are a few Nazis. None of them seem to want to have anything to do with each other and all of them seem to have a gun rack and a few skeletons in the closet. Answers don’t come easy when no one talks.
Despite the content matter, there are a lot of things that are really enjoyable about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The audience’s sympathy holds strong with both of the main protagonists: Blomkvist and Salander. The plot, while convoluted, is very intriguing and keeps your attention riveted, if not in predicting the outcome then at least in trying to figure out what is actually going on.
The acting is excellent and David Fincher’s directing is always strong. This movie ranks right up there with Zodiac, his previous effort about a murder mystery. That one, in my humble estimation, is much more effectively executed although it won’t ever be as popular because it was based on a true story and also because the Stieg Larsson books (the first of which was the source material for this film) have achieved astounding success. A big budget Hollywood film trilogy will undoubtedly make a mint off of the sordid stories.
The big problem with the film was that a lot of the dialogue was spoken in muffled tones by mumble-mouthed, English-speaking actors trying only half their darndest to sound Swedish. This, combined with the intricate plot and multiple important characters (all with Swedish names) made the movie-going experience into a perplexing mystery about a perplexing mystery.
The novel should be required reading before entering the theatre, just so viewers can keep pace with all that happens on the screen.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan SkarsgÄşrd, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic, and Christopher Plummer
Now playing at: Cineplex North Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatre