The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the novel by Steig Larsson, is a suspense thriller directed by David Fincher and written by Steven Zaillian. The film introduces us to Mikael Blomkvist, a prominent journalist who lost a case against a man named Hans-Erik Wennerström. Mikael decides to withdraw from being co-owner and writer of Millenium magazine because he lost his case against Hans. He then almost immediately receives an offer from a man named Henrik Vanger to solve a murder mystery in his family. Mikael tells Henrik he is uninterested in solving the mystery despite being offered double his current salary to do so. Henrik begs for Mikael’s help and offers one final incentive: the information that would help put Hans-Erik Wennerström in jail. Mikael accepts the offer and with the help of researcher Lisbeth Salander attempts to solve a 40-year-old family murder mystery.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an intense film. The strength of this film is its story. In cinema, there’s this long held thought that dialogue tells us almost everything we need to know about the main characters but, in this case, the film’s dialogue doesn’t even need to be said. I could watch this film muted reading closed captioning and subtitles and still be just as immersed in the characters and their actions as if sound were used. There is such a quiet intensity and unease that courses through the tone of this film. It has bleak and dark undertones throughout and is relentless in its pacing.
The intensity comes from the fact that Mikael could be found out by the killer at any point. Daniel Craig plays Mikael as a man at the end of his rope professionally. How he goes about learning about Henrik’s family members to solve this mystery is nothing short of amazing. He works diligently to find out how all of the relationships of this crazy family function, and that’s how he is able to narrow down his suspects. I love that David Fincher allows the camera to just take you through the investigation process rather than having dialogue explain how things and people in the film are connected.
Rooney Mara has the difficult task of bringing Lisbeth Salander to life for American audiences. Lisbeth is socially awkward, confrontational and analytical. I greatly enjoyed watching Mara’s portrayal of Lisbeth as she navigates through life. The reason why Rooney Mara’s portrayal of Lisbeth works so well is because of the way she holds herself. In this film, Lisbeth is incredibly fragile, yet also confident and highly intelligent when it comes to analytical work. The standout scene involving Lisbeth has to be the moment where she confronts her social worker, who had raped her the night before in exchange for the money she needed. In retaliation to such a visceral and abusive act, Lisbeth takes revenge on her abuser by making it impossible for him to sit down and by tattooing “rapist pig” on his chest and stomach. In that scene alone, you can see her sadness and fury written all over her face.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo works as an adaptation of a foreign work mostly because director David Fincher took his time and allowed the audience to be engrossed by the film’s story and invested in the film’s characters. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the last unforgettable film of 2011 and the one that gives me the most hope for the future of suspenseful cinema.