THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
By Gary Murray
Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer
Written by Steven Zaillian
Directed by David Fincher
Running time 158 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Stieg Larsson had become an international sensation with his series of acclaimed thrillers that begin with The Girl… in the title. The first one, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an international art house release in 2009, making some critics ‘best of’ lists. The sequels have been released in the US over the year and we now have an English Language version starring Daniel Craig.
The story of Dragon Tattoo is about Mikael (Daniel Craig) a disgraced journalist looking for redemption. Once we get past some James Bond style opening credits, we discover that Mikael has been offered a job to investigate a missing person case from years ago.
A very wealthy man (Christopher Plummer) who lives on an island has a missing relative from years ago; most believe that she was murdered. The man wants Mikael to look into the case, using his skills as a journalist to put the pieces together.
Almost instantly, he realizes that he needs a research assistant. Lisbeth (Rooney Mars) is hired. She is a dragon tattooed, tough biker who is uncomfortable in her own skin. A computer hacker, she was used to investigate Mikael before he was hired to research the case. Lisbeth has her own personal demons and has to deal with the executor of her estate, a scummy little man with his own nefarious designs.
As Mikael and Lisbeth work together, they find common ground and mutual respect for one another. They delve into the family and personal business of the rich and powerful, finding answers to a mystery and a connection to the present. It all builds to a big reveal that wasn’t much of surprise. The film is not so much a mystery thriller as a character study of two different characters finding something in common.
The weakest element of Dragon Tattoo resides with Daniel Craig. James Bond has made him an international superstar but he fails to delivers much with the role of Mikael. There is this feeling of being ‘too cool to let the guard down’ in a role that demand a degree of attached vulnerability. The role calls for a character actor, not a leading man.
By far, the most impressive performance comes from Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. The role is played as a cross purpose, almost as an oxymoron. She is this tough, motorcycle riding lesbian but at the same time, she is a frightened little girl. There are moments of fierce determination juxtaposed with frail naiveté. It is a fully fleshed out performance that encompasses all that is good and bad in humanity.
This is a hard film to watch. There are moments of sever brutality, with rape and nudity in the forefront. Some of the moments are off-putting they become upsetting. There are scenes not for the squeamish. This is not a ‘feel good’ date movie.
Director David Fincher gives a true sense of time and place in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We feel the bitter chill in the air as a mirror to the isolation of the characters. This is a cold world, full of cold self-serving people. It becomes a reflection to society more than some kind of noir experience.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a good film, just not a great film. It has all the elements, just not the final product. At almost three hours, it overstays its welcome by a good half hour. A tighter edit would have given a greater sense of urgency. Many fans of the original series and the books will probably be disappointed by the latest incarnation. It is more for the novice than the fanatic.