Contributor: Andy Spencer
Writer: Steven Zaillian
Director: David Fincher
I am very grateful that I have neither seen the original 2009 film or read Steig Larsson’s trilogy. That I came at this film with a fresh perspective, I believe, counted for a lot. For one, it mean that I will not have to endure criticism for comparing it to the original, which has its dedicate and fervent fans.
This film is a cold one. The temperature of the story’s location is low, the sets are stark, and the color palette is muted. The only hint of warmth comes in a brief flashback to a simpler, happier time. Nothing like it happens before or since, and due to its significance to the story, it is a quite memorable scene. The film all but comes out and tells you that this little Swedish island has many, many problems.
And it’s not the only one. Arguably even more important than the story is the female lead character, Lisbeth Salander. This has been stated in the majority of the reviews for the film, but it will never diminish in importance. Rooney Mara delivers one of the best performances I have ever seen. While watching her in the film, I completely forgot Lisbeth was being portrayed by someone. I actually thought she was a person, not a movie character. This is how utterly convincing Mara is, whether she is investigating a murder or getting vengeance for being raped, she is always Salander. And perhaps most importantly, she evolves over the course of the film. This one of the few times in any movie I’ve seen where it is possible to actually observe a character’s arc. When she smiles, you know she has been at least partially transformed, and for the better.
Her relationship with Mikael Blomkvist (played by the inimitable Daniel Craig) is as important to the story as the the central mystery. Craig and Mara play off each other admirably, whether it be with borderline hostility or sexual attraction. As she is with seemingly everyone, she is incredibly guarded against him at first, keeping a taser in her waistband at their first meeting. However, despite the obvious physical and mental differences between them, they investigate with a dedication and passion that seems like it would be unmatched.
This investigation is what drives the unusually involving plot along. A wealthy former industrialist’s grandniece was murdered forty years ago, and said man wants the mystery solved before he passes on. He says that Blomkvist will be investigating “thieves, misers, bullies, the most detestable group of people you will ever meet”. At least he was up front about it. His family meets all four of these criteria, including more than one Nazi and a murderer. Unsurprisingly, no one talks to anyone else. Detestable, indeed.
Gradually, Salander and Blomkvist discover layers to the mystery that hook you with ferocious efficiency. Without spoiling anything, the story has one or two major twists that anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the 2009 version wouldn’t expect. I know I didn’t. And the ending is an unexpected gut-punch that will make you feel for the characters, as well as finalizing Lisbeth’s evolution from a cold, insane instrument of vengeance to slightly less of one.
David Fincher has stated that if this film is successful, the sequels will be adapted back to back, with Craig and Mara reprising their roles. Please go see this movie so that this might happen. Once you do, you’ll want this to happen as badly as I do. It’s just that good.