Review Date: 1/6/12
Director: David Fincher
Music: Trent Reznor
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård
A friend of mine put it best when he called this "the feel bad movie of the season."
David Fincher brings Stieg Larsson's celebrated murder mystery to the big screen for American audiences, with satisfying results. Having not seen the original Swedish version, I can't compare the two, but Fincher's work is competent and solid. Shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) gets a chance to reclaim his life when a rich old man named Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) asks him to write his memoirs. That's the official story, at least. What he really wants is for Mikael to investigate the murder of his niece which occurred forty years ago. What he uncovers is a bone-chilling series of gruesome murders by a serial killer that targets young women. To help him with his research, he hires a brilliant young computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), and together they solve the mystery and get more than they bargained for. Lisbeth is a wonderful character who has led an extremely hard life, and the film goes out of its way to mistreat her in every way possible. Rooney Mara gives a superb performance and manages to capture Lisbeth's tough exterior, anti-social behavior, and wounded soul perfectly. You do NOT want to cross this woman. Against her nature, she and Mikael manage to develop a wonderful working relationship through the course of the film, but he too betrays her in the end.
It's a long and slow film, but I remained engaged throughout. Fincher's direction is steady and deliberate, and even a bit subdued. It's a dark, grim, and misogynistic film, filled with unpleasant people doing unpleasant things. Mikael and Lisbeth are both broken and flawed characters, but they're easy to identify with and you want to see them succeed. The mystery unfolds at a slow but steady pace, offering just enough clues and false leads to keep you guessing. While there's very little in terms of action, the film manages to maintain a constant sense of tension and dread, thanks in part to Trent Reznor's dark and moody music score. I enjoyed the film quite a bit, but it haunted me for several days afterwards.