The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Movie Review

Based on the bestselling book by Stieg Larsson, which I reviewed last summer (read my review), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the second movie based on the aforementioned novel, the first being a critically acclaimed Swedish drama.

Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a top Swedish journalist whose world is crashing around him. He just lost a court battle during which he was accused of libel against a top Swedish businessman, his credibility is in ruins and his magazine is struggling. Amid all the chaos, he gets a peculiar job offer from Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the head of Vanger corporations, to write a biography about his family as a cover to a journalistic investigation into the disappearance of Vanger’s niece some forty years prior.

As Blomkvist begins to make advances in the case the likes of which he didn’t think he would be able to do, he is faced with the possibility of a Swedish serial killer of women being on the loose. The killings are biblical, based on Leviticus verses. But he needs help, which comes in the form of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an emotionally reclusive, mentally challenging and emotionally unstable hacker.

One cannot talk about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as a movie without talking about the reason it has such a title: the character of Lisbeth Salander. To say that girl is one of the most interesting characters to recently grace literature and now cinema would be a gross understatement. There’s just something about the fire in Lisbeth’s eyes, whether you’re reading her off a page or watching her on screen, covering a dark emptiness inside that is very unraveling, very dark and very fascinating. Therefore, the need of great acting skills to be able to interprete such a multi-layered character is in need. To be blunt, Rooney Mara excels.

Not only does she get you to feel compassion with her character’s moments of weakness, she also gets you to root for her in her moments of triumph. Rooney Mara is fascinating, down to the very basic articulations of the Meryl Streep-esque accent she has formulated for her character. She literally doesn’t shy away from giving the viewers of the movie everything she has to offer and she shines doing so.

Daniel Craig is great as Mikael Blomkvist. As I read the book, I didn’t really picture a character in my head for Blomkvist. But Craig manages to fill in the “blanks” I had after three books of reading Blomkvist’s pursuits. His performance is nuanced and is beautifully complemented and elevated by the previously mentioned stellar performance by Rooney Mara. However, what works against Craig in this movie is the fact that his character is nowhere near as interesting as Mara’s Lisbeth. But the biggest evidence to how greatly these two actors’ performances complement each other is the fact that the movie doesn’t really take off until you get both Lisbeth and Mikael in the same frame.

Another brilliant part of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the superb electronic music present in it, which has sort of become correlated in my head with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, whose previous works include last year’s The Social Network (My review). The darkest scenes in the movie are taken a step further in darkness by the score that Reznor and Ross envisioned for the movie.  Moreover, the cinematography in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is top-notch as well. On top of being very pleasing to listen to, it is a beautiful movie to look at – despite its very violent moments, some of which are among the most brutal I have watched on screen yet.

David Fincher, who also directed on last year’s The Social Network, manages to craft this Swedish noir novel into a movie that is very pleasing to the fans of the book. He manages to preserve the dark essence of the book and transfer it on screen with minimal changes to the material presented in the novel. Stieg Larsson would have been, in my humble opinion, very pleased to see his work presented this way on screen.

On the overall, the crew that worked on this movie managed to a dark and mysterious world full of family secrets, corruption, sexual perversity and redemption. The beautiful thing about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is that all the pieces fall together in a synchronized manner to deliver a truly brilliant cinematic experience, albeit being a movie of extensive duration, due to the book’s thick spine. At the end of the day, however, this is simply Rooney Mara’s movie. And with books two and three of The Millenium trilogy featuring Salander more and more in the spotlight, I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve. But let me tell you, this is epic and the next two will be epic, indeed.


The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (Book Review) – Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is the third and final installment in the Millennium trilogy, currently the best selling books worldwide.

The final installment picks up where the second one left off: Lisbeth Salander has been shot, Zala is wounded and Niedermann is tied to a sign post. And so both Salander and Zala are taken to the hospital to fix up their wounds, with Lisbeth barely making it through. However, the revelations that started with the second installment, about Lisbeth’s deep involvement with a section of the Swedish secret police, continue to work in the third book. Never before has the Zalachenko club in Sapo (the Secret Police) been revealed to this extent and they must do their best to clean up.

Little do they know, however, is that this time around Lisbeth Salander has decided to fight back – and similarly to them, her fight will not be clean. Unlike them, however, she will always be one step ahead, even when Sapo believe they’ve got it all in the bag.

Lisbeth Salander has to seek the help of Mikael Blomkvit, who’s now under strict Sapo surveillance. And he’s willing to help. He will harness the power of his magazine and investigative journalism to bring justice to Salander, a woman who has had her most basic of rights violated.

Erika Berger has a stalker as well. Someone who wants her to fail at her new job, as editor in chief. But the collective effort of all people who are involved, in one way or another, with Millenium – as well as Milton Security, Lisbeth’s former employer, is needed to bring the Zalachenko group of the Secret Police down.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest is a very riveting book, especially when it comes down to the trial during which Lisbeth speaks up and surprises everyone. The cross-examination of Dr. Teleborian, the psychiatrist who decided Lisbeth needed to be locked up when she was twelve, is probably one of the most exciting passages to read in the whole series.

However, unlike the previous two books in the trilogy, there isn’t a mystery in this one. There isn’t a killer to be identified like in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or The Girl Who Played With Fire. All the cards are laid out on the table for you to see. You know what each side is capable of and you know the material they both have.

In books like this, it is up to the author’s talent and expertise to deliver a book that is captivating and still wholly engrossing for you to read. And Stieg Larsson delivers. The author’s approach towards this book is not different from the previous ones but there’s an undeniable sense of urgency in the way he laid his words on paper. The monologue italic thoughts are still scattered out throughout and they serve as a strong catalyst for the advancement of the plot.

There are moments however where Larsson abandons his novelist self and goes into a pamphlet-like writer, giving you what I believe is pages and pages of credible history about the workings and logistics of the Swedish Secret Police. The fact that I skimmed through those pages and still understood the whole book is testimony to how useless they are. Perhaps he wanted to use his books for some sort of activism, but it just doesn’t work. Or it could be that I have nothing to do with Sweden.

However, at the end of the day, even though the ending of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest is quite expected, it still brings you a sense of relief to see Lisbeth walk out free. The girl with the dragon tattoo who played with fire all her life dared to kick the hornet’s nest and live to tell the tale. And it is a great tale.