Having never seen the Swedish version, the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” proved to be a well directed, well acted, and well filmed compelling mystery/action movie. The movie revolves around the unsolved mystery of Harriet Vanger, a young girl of affluent background, who disappeared forty some years ago. Her entire family lives on an island that is secluded from the rest of the world, yet their contact with each other is minimal. This alone is a great enough concept to start a novel, and while the movie never delves into it, there is something to be said about leaving their interactions as another mystery of the film. While the plot of the movie lies in the solving of this mystery, by the end the audience is far more concerned with Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) than the solved crime, or even her male counterpart Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig).
Salander is an anti-hero if there ever was one. She has been marginalized by society and literally raped by its authority figures. There are some graphic scenes in this movie that will probably stay with audiences for years to come, but their presence is unarguably necessary to craft Salander’s character. After witnessing the abuse from her social worker, the audience is connected to Salander’s character and watch her get revenge. For a character who says so little, and is in general so aloof, these scenes were key to making her relatable. Only through witnessing the evils that harmed her is the audience able to understand the box she builds around herself. She is not your typical action movie chick, though she wears just as much black leather.
Director David Fincher does a masterful job at making reading documents, scanning pictures, and doing other puzzle solving activities seem as thrilling as car chases. His absence from the Oscar nominees is one of the numerous atrocities at this years’ awards show. His casting of Rooney Mara as Salander was a success no one saw coming. She was impressive in her previous work (think the opening scene of the Social Network) but none of it screamed scorned woman action hero. Somehow though, he saw her potential and capitalized on it. Her performance is without a doubt one of the best, if not the best, of the year. As for the rest of the actors, Craig is as confident and suave as his James Bond character, and Christopher Plummer (as Henrik Vanger) is as charming as he’s ever been. Their interactions, especially between Craig and Mara, are enjoyable and revealing, but rarely overdone. In fact, the absence of the movie from Best Picture nominees might be a larger atrocity than the previously mentioned.
The movie is engaging and refreshing, if not twenty minutes too long. The plot twist of the disappearance mystery is somewhat surprising, and the movie should have ended soon after it was revealed. It is not that the audience can’t handle an ending that isn’t happy, but rather that when the relationship between Blomkvist and Salander is put front and center, the movie loses some of its luster and toes the line of a mellow drama. The ending is necessary to set up sequels, but it may have been possible to accomplish it in a few short minutes rather than dragging it out. However, it is a small flaw in an otherwise fantastic movie.