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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

What She said:

She

I recall trying to read this book last summer.  No joke, I couldn’t do it.  And it’s rare for me to actually give up on a book.  I never made it past the first hundred pages, soooooo brutally boring.  Anyway, I feared the Hollywood movie version of this story would suffer the same fate.  At 2 hours and 37 minutes of runtime, it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t.

I’m happy to say that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did not bore me.  It did so many other things to me mentally and emotionally, but bore me it did not.  Did I yelp in terror?  Yes.  Want to vomit at least twice?  Oh heck yeah.  Have my brains scrambled by the thumping musical score?  Uh huh.  But fall asleep, I did not. 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on a well-known Swedish book series, is about a magazine journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), who was recently convicted of libel.  This hasn’t fully ruined his career, but there have been some bumps in the road.  He is recruited by a rich family patriarch, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), to pen the old man’s memoirs.  That’s really just the cover, though.  Vanger wants Blomkvist to investigate the 40 year mystery of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger.  The whole Vanger family—brothers, sisters, cousins, etc.—all live on this secluded island 4 hours north of Stockholm, which is only accessible via a single bridge.  Henrik suspects someone within his own family is responsible for Harriet’s disappearance, and he believes Blomkvist is the right guy to get to the bottom of it.  He tempts Blomkvist with the promise of information that would clear his name in the libel conviction.

In the meantime, we’re introduced to Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a scary looking, troubled, and extremely cold genius computer hacker, who picks up investigative jobs whenever she finds them interesting.  She was hired by Henrik Vanger to do background on Blomkvist.  Lisbeth’s physical appearance may be intimidating, but it’s also not for show.  She has a brutal background, and is actually a ward of the state.  When her legal guardian falls ill, she is abused by her next caregiver.  Really horrifying stuff.  Lisbeth exacts her revenge, and this is when Lisbeth and Mikael begin to cross paths.  Mikael finds out that Lisbeth is the one who did his rather extensive background report, and decides to recruit her as an assistant on the Vanger job.  The unlikely pair team up with fruitful results.

Since I didn’t make it more than a hundred pages into the book, I had no idea that I was in for rape, nudity, and sexual perversion.  Of course, there’s only so much that the movie can show, but they pretty much go to the edge, and it’s graphic to take in.  Is it effective?  Yes, but I also don’t think it was particularly necessary.  There’s only so many times I can handle seeing people naked in one film.  And it’s pretty in your face stuff that I wasn’t prepared for.  That’s my major complaint about this movie.  I felt like some of it was in there for shock value, when it could have been handled differently.  The storyline itself, while initially a little confusing, was quite interesting.  The characters are pretty well developed—even Lisbeth Salander, who is pretty much emotionally void, sees growth in the film. 

Visually, the movie is also well done, capturing the morose of the Vanger family island.  The music was a bit much for me, but I guess it fits with Lisbeth’s personality.  For all the introductory stuff that the movie went through, it seemed to end a bit short, but I guess that’s what sequels are for.  They are working on one, right?

Thumbs mostly up, but down a little because boy was this graphic.

What he said:

He

Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) is a wealthy Swedish businessman whose family has a long history in both the local community and Sweden as a whole. They have played a huge part in the industrialization of Sweden. They also have some major family drama. Domestic violence, alcoholism, Nazism, and possibly even murder are all a part of their family history.

The whole family lives on an island where they each have their own property, but gather regularly at Henrik’s (he’s sort of the patriarch) to eat, drink, and discuss business. On one particular day, Henrik notices his niece Harriet is missing from the dinner table. He doesn’t think anything of it at first, but quickly remembers that she seemed very upset earlier and wanted to speak with him. He had asked her to come back later as he was discussing business. As time goes and everyone starts to realize she’s missing, he is riddled with guilt. That guilt turns into obsession as he spends the next 30+ years searching for her. He is convinced somebody in the family murdered her.

This is where Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) comes into play. He is a writer and co-owner of a magazine that has recently been sued for libel when one of his sources turns out to have been misleading him. He has been disgraced and is sort of forced into hiding. Henrik offers him the job of researching his family’s history in an attempt to uncover the truth. To keep family members – and potential murder suspects – at bay Henrik has informed Mikael to simply tell people he is writing his biography.

Initially Mikael doesn’t have much success, but he then slowly begins to uncover some things. To further his findings he requests a research assistant and this is where Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) comes into play. She is…well, she’s different. It’s not just that tattoos and piercings; the girl is seemingly emotionless. She is beyond withdrawn or anti-social. It is very clear from the moment you meet her she has some serious emotional issues going on. She also happens to be a computer genius and that is how she ends up working with Mikael.

When Henrik decided to hire Mikael, he had someone look into his background. That someone was Lisbeth. Her research skills are phenomenal. They’re not always legal, but she will always find something. Mikael and Lisbeth spend the rest of the movie working together to try and solve this mystery.

I had heard many good things about this movie. I also really enjoyed director David Fincher’s previous endeavor into the crime thriller/drama territory in Zodiac (review here), so I was very curious about this movie.

I will say the plot was certainly interesting. It was filled with all kinds of character backstories, twists and turns, and other intricate details. It was also filled with some solid performances. Rooney Mara absolutely transforms herself into this bizarre anti-hero. It’s also downright terrifying at times. It has some creepy serial killer stuff going on that will make any sane person’s skin crawl. It’s kind of like Silence of the Lambs in the sense that you find yourself saying, “That’s absolutely disgusting”, but are still watching anyway. I guess it’s just interesting to see just how far gone someone’s mind can degenerate.

At the same time, I felt this movie pushed it a little too far at times. I understand that when dealing with sick people you are going to be dealing with some pretty messed up stuff, but that doesn’t mean a movie has to show it in such graphic detail. Call me old fashioned or overly sensitive, but I could really go without ever seeing another rape scene in a movie ever again. It’s simply not something I need to see in something that is meant to entertain me, especially more than once!!! I’m not an idiot; I don’t have to see everything in order to comprehend what’s going on. It’s done for shock value and that detracts from my movie viewing experience. Entertainment is meant to be enjoyed and that kind of detail just doesn’t entertain me.

I am also not the biggest Daniel Craig fan. I find him to be terribly boring on screen. He can be very bland if not wooden. Between him and the Lisbeth Salander character, I thought I was watching a “Sprockets” skit from Saturday Night Live.

Still I found the story very intriguing at times and was interested through the end. I just wish it took the less is more approach with certain things.

Rating: Thumbs half up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on May 22, 2012.