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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie poster

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Movie Review

Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rated: R
Directed by: David Fincher

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson
Released by: Columbia Pictures

In Short: Lisbeth Salander successfully comes to Hollywood in the first of a planned three-part film series of thrillers based on the best-selling Swedish novels.

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Stieg Larsson's Best-Selling Book Comes to Hollywood

When Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson began writing his "Millennium" trilogy back at the beginning of the 21st century, he had no idea that it would become an international sensation, selling close to 30 million copies worldwide. Sadly, Larsson died before even the first book, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," released in his native country, so he will never know what an impact his heroine Lisbeth Salander has had on the world's psyche.

All three books ("The Girl Who Played with Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet's Nest" are the other two) were made into films in Sweden, with Noomi Rapace starring in a much-lauded performance as Salander, the brilliant computer analyst with a dark past. Now Hollywood — and specifically David Fincher, the director behind "The Social Network," "Se7en," "Fight Club," etc. — is tackling the tale, with this English-language version starring Rooney Mara.

Fincher's slick film follows the novel pretty closely, beginning with the trial of Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a renowned journalist and the editor of Millennium magazine. He's just been convicted of libel, and his career is in shambles. Enter Henrik Vanger, a rich industrialist who lives in the frigid far north of Sweden, with a proposition. He'll hire Blomkvist to investigate the decades-old disappearance of his favorite niece; an incident that he knows involved someone in his own family.

Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Daniel Craig and Robin Wright in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Blomkvist agrees, and heads to the Vanger family island to begin his investigation. As his story and Salander's (Mara) collide, sparks fly. The duo, thrown together by Vanger, joins forces to unravel the mystery. Meanwhile, a parallel story emerges, as Salander's own dysfunctional past is revealed. That's an incredible saga that continues in the next two books, which are likely to follow as English-language Hollywood films as well.

Fincher's take on "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is as disturbing, graphic and brutal as Larsson's novels, for this is a story not for the faint of heart. As the layers of the mystery are peeled back and the story climaxes, deadly forces are unleashed and graphic violence ensues.

For those who have read the books and seen the original cinematic trilogy, this version will likely seem a bit redundant. For when you know whodunit, the experience is necessarily not as compelling as if you do not. But both Mara and Craig pull off their roles very convincingly, and Fincher, with his usual prowess, makes sure that the action moves along at a pace that still keeps us interested. But this version is probably best appreciated by those who have no idea who Lisbeth Salander is, and are discovering her for the first time.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters


(Updated: 12/21/11 CT)

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