I love the mystery of a detective story. There is a new brand of thrilling possibilites when a film revolves around a investigator unraveling dark secrets from the past. It is thrilling because I’ve learned over the years what solving a mystery requires; the characters must go somewhere they don’t want to go in order to find the truth. To really find out the reality of the past, the detective must overcome their fear of the unknown and become enveloped and dive into the darkness.
Although, it is easier to take the plunge if you have somewhere there with you; someone that already understands the treacherous waters.
It is at this crossroads where Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander meet in the American adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s novel ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”The best-selling Swedish novel has been able to resonate with readers world wide, but when director David Fincher was able to take give his spin on the story, the best-selling novel became a piece of ambitious filmmaking that deserves recognition.
Mikael Blomkvist (played by Daniel Craig) is a business journalist living in Stockholm known for his “keen investigative mind.” When the film opens, Blomkvist has just been convicted of libel, having recently published an article that accused powerful Swedish executive Hans-Erik Wennerstrom of having ties with organized crime. Embarassed by the conviction and nearly broke from the judgment, Blomkvist receives a phone call, requesting a meeting with the founder of powerful Swedish Firm, Henrik Vanger.
Knowing that Blomkvist is desperate, Henrik Vanger brings him to their eerie island mansion. Henrik wants the journalist to investigate something that has haunted him for years; the murder of his niece Harriet, a murder that occured more than 40 years ago. Mikael agrees to find out what he can, but as he searches, he realizes that Harriet’s death is not just a solitary event, but part of a chain of murders that began years before her disappearance.
The title character of the film, Lisbeth Salander (played by Rooney Mara), is seemingly different from Blomkvist is every way. She is a goth-punk hacker who is pierced from head to toe. Her raven black hair is in stark contrast to her bleached eye-brows which also work in opposition to her blackened retinas. Although she is constantly dressed in leather and chains, the only thing more offensive than Lisbeth’s appearance is her demeanor. You can see that she detests being around people, especially men, and even more especially the wealthy bureaucratic men that she is subject to. She is a ward of the state, being passed around through foster care since childhood. She is plagued by a history of physical and sexual abuse, which she carries around like heavy luggage, making her unwilling to trust anyone that might harm her.
In the first half of the film, the audience watches the separate lives and undertakings of these two people who are separated by age, personality, and circumstance. As Mikael works to find the clues and the missing pieces to Harriet’s death, we watch as Lisbeth is forced to endure the horrible abuse of her new legal guardian. It is truly horrifying to see this sequence of events, how this young woman is forced to endure terrible things for her survival. But, as awful as it is, it is also that much more vital when we see Lisbeth exact her vengeance, not only on her violent and disgusting abuser, but also on all men who want to hurt women.
Blomkvist has found himself in waters that he doesn’t fully understand, forcing him to find someone to help him navigate through the veiled past. It is because of this that Mikael is able to find Lisbeth, only initially searching for a research assistant. When Blomkvist eventually comes to Lisbeth for help, it is an incredible important dialogue that the two characters share. Although they have their different reasons for wanting to find the truth about Harriet, Blomkvist seeking personal redemption and Salander wanting to punish a world of violent men, they both in the end want the same thing. We see them unite for a common purpose; “I want you to help me catch a killer of women.”
By deciding to dive into the mystery together, Lisbeth does something that she has, until this point, refused to do. She must put her trust in man.
There are so many things that I love about this movie. Rooney Mara truly does deliver the performance of the year with her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander. She is able to be both vulnerable and fierce, fragile yet powerful, and the way she brings this character to life is what brings the story together. Although Mara deserves all praise she receives for this film, there is no doubt that Director David Fincher was the master architect of ‘Dragon Tattoo.’ The way that Fincher is able to create a mood for a film is unbelievable, how with a few simple shots in the opening he is able to set the tone for the entire narrative, and he is able to make this movie feel as chilling and mysterious as the subject matter would suggest. However, I’m more than biased. In my mind, David Fincher is the best Director working today.
But Viewer be warned: Although I believe this movie is a fantastic piece of filmmaking, it takes the audience to places that it does not want to go. It is very purposeful in this, trying to get the audience to see everything the characters must go through, and I mean everything. Specifically, there is one scene in which the heroine is brutally violated. It is because of this scene that I can’t openly recommend it without a disclaimer of sorts. The film is graphic in its depiction of violence towards women, and I believe that the viewer deserves to know this before watching.
My Note: If you are prepared to dive into the shocking world of ‘Dragon Tattoo,’ take the plunge, because in the end, it is worth it (but don’t say I didn’t warn you).
My Grade: A