‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ Review: Rooney Mara is Mesmerizing in This Captivating Thriller From David Fincher
Looking for a fun holiday movie that requires minimal thinking to take the whole family to? Go see Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. Looking for a beautiful yet brutal thriller featuring one of the most unique and interesting characters created in recent memory? Go see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. David Fincher’s adaptation of the best selling novel is as sexy as it is disturbing, as warm as it is cold, and as conventional as it is shocking.
The best part of it all? The brave and committed performance from previous no-name Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. This character is unlike any other you have ever come across. Her cold nature is a turn off to most of the people around her, but as the viewer we somehow understand her. Mara manages to hide Lisbeth’s emotions just enough that when we do get glimpses at the girl inside it is genuinely heartbreaking. What does it take to bring a person to Lisbeth’s level? Once again we get glimpses but the mystery is never truly unraveled. Mara’s performance is only comparable to Heath Ledger’s devotion to the Joker in The Dark Knight. Neither of them follows the rules of society and are capable of the most unexpected actions at the most unexpected times. But where Lisbeth differs from the famed Batman villain is that she is heroic, in a way, making her someone to truly root for and care about despite not knowing every bit of what makes her tick. Rooney Mara pulls this off perfectly leaving nothing behind in tour de force of a performance.
The plot sees Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) investigating the murder of a member of one of the most notorious families in all of Sweden, the Vangers. Lisbeth comes in when Blomkvist decides he needs another set of eyes on the investigation. It all leads to a heart-pounding climax that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Running over two and a half hours, the film is excellently paced. There is hardly a dull moment as we follow Mikael and Lisbeth separated for most of the first half. No scene lingers on longer than it should. Once the duo start working together it slows down a tad before racing to the climax. But after the mystery has been solved there is still a lot a fair amount of time left in the film. Fincher takes his time wrapping up every loose end carefully so that the final shot sticks with you long after leaving the theater and squirming for a sequel.
Aside from Mara, the rest of the cast does a good job as well. Craig smartly underplays his role so as to keep the attention on Mara. Veteran Christopher Plummer gets a lot done in the little screen time given to him, delivering each line with conviction and dread. Stellan Skarsgard also seems to enjoy the little screen time he gets and makes the most of it.
Aesthetically, the film is beautiful. Each shot is photographed with so much care and precision to make for some spectacularly moody storytelling. Also, Trent Reznor’s score cannot be ignored. The themes that play throughout the film are quiet yet dangerous.
The holiday season is a time for celebration and this year I will be celebrating The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Rooney Mara. Whether the plot grabs you or not, you won’t be able to get Lisbeth Salander off of your mind. This is a dark film not for the faint of heart, but for those who can take it, this is the perfect way give yourself a little treat. (**** out of 4)