The opening credits alone are enough to dazzle and confuse viewers in David Fincher’s newest feature. Audiences will experience an incredible - and at times shocking - journey through the world Stieg Larsson created and David Fincher now brings to life. The casting was very well done, with supporting stars like Steven Berkoff, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, and Robin Wright rounding off a powerhouse cast. Once you get over the prejudice of seeing Daniel Craig as an action star, you realise he's a good fit for Mikael Blomkvist. But the true star here is Rooney Mara, the relatively unknown actress gives an Oscar-worthy performance in the coveted role of Lisbeth Salander. Stealing each of her scenes, a young new actress shows her incredible talent.
For those of you who haven’t read the novels (or seen the Swedish adaptations), the film revolves around two central characters. The first, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a reporter found guilty of libel. Having lost most of his life savings he is hired by a wealthy Swedish business owner named Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Vanger wants Blomkvist to write his memoirs for him, though in actuality Blomkvist’s role is to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of Harriet, Henrik’s niece. The Vanger family all live on a large island but rarely talk with one another, they’re the kind of wealthy old family with creepy and reclusive members, as well as ties to Nazi Germany.
The second lead character is Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Lisbeth is a young girl who has been rejected from society, placed in the care of multiple guardians, she has been abused by many and left to live with whatever energy she has left. She seems willing to crawl up into a hole and to hide from the world, but when hit, she hits back five times as hard. This is what makes her such a compelling heroine for audiences. She's quite the opposite of your typical busty blonde female character in thrillers who lack depth and motivation. Lisbeth shows off her fearce bite, particularly when she is raped by her most recent guardian Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), she fights back in a way that most people whould never even dream of, but Bjurman certainly gets what he deserves.
Writer Steven Zaillian remains very faithful to Larsson’s original novel, changing only a little at the ending to keep it fresh without ruining the story. I’m extremely pleased that David Fincher directed this movie. With such great source material, Fincher works his magic upon this film. His camera work greatly reflects the story and characters, with Blomkvist moving around in still frames while Lisbeth is almost constantly followed by a moving camera, the audience often looking over her shoulder. Fincher is a master at building suspense in dark and stylish thrillers, and he shows it here. Even as I knew what was coming because I’ve read the book, David Fincher kept me in suspense for many scenes.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a superb movie, rich with a plethora of intriguingly gruseome scenes. The cast is terrific as they subtly unveil the secrets of the Vanger family, and the direction by David Fincher brilliantly portrays the characters while allowing for both plot and character development. Rooney Mara also stands out in a break-out role which deserves at the very least a nomination from the Academy. While The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo does have its flaws, it remains one of the best films of 2011.