“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” will leave its mark on you.
Dark, brutal and intriguing, the English-language version of the best-selling Stieg Larsson novel is as troubling and memorable as its Swedish counterpart that was released two years earlier. Its disturbing, almost mesmerizing, tone begins in the opening credits, which are a wonder to behold, and continues through to the last frame, enhanced by the incredible soundtrack written by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) is a reporter whose career was ruined after being found guilty of libel in a story about a powerful industrialist. As Mikael ponders his future, he receives an offer from an aging millionaire. Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) wants to hire Mikael to investigate the murder of his niece, Harriet, who disappeared four decades ago.
Mikael goes to stay in a cabin on Vanger’s property, where several other members of the Vanger family reside — many of them without speaking to each other. Behind every pair of eyes there seems to be a secret.
Mikael himself was investigated before beginning his project on behalf of the Vangers. The researcher was Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara, “The Social Network”), a wire-thin, tormented young woman with multiple piercings, a wardrobe centered mostly on shades of black and, of course, a dragon tattoo on her back. Lisbeth may be anti-social and sullen, but she’s a brilliant computer researcher and hacker, and she soon joins Mikael as he uncovers family secrets and clues about Harriet’s fate.
Although Craig’s Mikael is interesting, it’s the character of Lisbeth that fascinates, saddens and affects the audience. Mara infuses her character with gloom and rage. Plummer, as always, does not disappoint, and neither does Robin Wright as Mikael’s co-editor at a magazine and Stellan Skarsgård as Henrik’s nephew, Martin. A vile character named Bjurman, who becomes Lisbeth’s guardian and brutally victimizes her, is played to detestable perfection by Yorick van Wageningen in a performance far removed from his character in “The Way.”
This is far more than another mystery. It’s a story of revenge, mental issues and ghastly secrets. Its “R” rating is justly deserved. Be forewarned that this material is not for the squeamish.
But if you enjoyed the book and appreciate drama with an edge, it is an experience that could be indelibly etched into your brain.