Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) has spent the last 40 years searching for the murderer of his young niece. She disappeared one day and no one has seen her since but her murderer has continued to send Henrik a gift every year on his birthday. Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has lost his life savings when he is sued for libel after he publishes an article about a wealthy businessman, Wennerstrom. After Mikael's fall from grace, Henrik decides to hire him to solve his niece's murder in exchange for evidence that would clear Mikael's name and send Wennerstrom to jail. Mikael soon finds that he needs assistance and enlists the help of young tech-guru, Lisabeth Salander (Rooney Mara).
This is not a film to watch in order to fill some time on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It is quite the emotional roller coaster--but in the best sense possible. The overall tone of the film is quite dark and somber. Each moment of the film is filled with an omnipresent sense of dread and anticipation. There is something oddly unsettling about knowing that something terrible is about to happen before it happens. The tone is very similar to another film based off Swedish source material--Let Me In. Both are stories driven by very strong female lead characters that are complex and alluring and dangerous.
A large part of what makes this film so impressive was Rooney Mara's portrayal of Lisabeth Salander. Mara's performance was stunning. She was able to create a character that was as vulnerable as she is strong--it was an absolute pleasure to watch even during the most intense and disturbing moments of the film. Craig and the rest of the cast were fantastic as well but were at least slightly overshadowed by Mara's complete commitment to her role--physically and creatively. There cannot be enough nice things said about the level of acting in this film.
But the acting wasn't the only factors that contributed to the success of this film. The reading frame of the film's plot seemed a misplaced. The beginning and the end seemed like loose ends that are a bit unnecessary but they added to the overall feeling of the film. Both Lisabeth and Mikael are lost in their lives so it only makes sense that the film doesn't begin and end with a neatly tied bow. Everything from the costumes, to the setting, to the script helps make these characters and this story resonate so powerfully with audiences. It feels so real and honest. There are so many moments that are gritty and raw and repulsive and this film makes no apologies.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a bold film that separates itself from other films with its unapologetic approach to violence and storytelling. It isn't a movie for the faint of heart but it is a powerful piece that helps hit home the consequences and realities of rape and violence. The acting is superb under the careful hand of director, David Fincher, who was careful to tread a careful line between gritty and gory. It is a brilliant film--anyone who watches it won't soon forget it.