So here we have David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an adaptation some questioned right from the start considering the popular series of novels already comes with three Swedish adaptations that just recently hit theaters and are still fresh in our Lisbeth Salandar-loving minds. But there are a lot of people who haven't seen those films -- which follow the relationship between a disgraced journalist and his emotionally-and-physically abused sidekick -- as well as those who just never cared to pick up any of the books. And so while we may not have needed the film to exist, once you sit down and let this thing attack every inch of your soul, you'll be glad it's here. Quite simply: Fincher's version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is far superior to its Swedish counterpart in every way, and will easily go down as the definitive adaptation of the popular novel.
Daniel Craig stars as journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who reluctantly takes on the job of tracking down the killer of a teenage girl after he's all but blacklisted from the industry for libel against a businessman far more powerful than he. As his investigation intensifies, Blomkvist eventually hooks up (in more ways than one) with a researcher named Lisbeth Salandar (Rooney Mara) who has more issues than TIME magazine. The two then embark on a road that leads in some dangerously slippery directions. Fans of the book will be pleased to see how much of it was included in the film, not to mention the little changes made to the story, structure and major revelations. Meanwhile, fans of David Fincher movies will marvel at the way the man meticulously shapes this monster adaptation, piecing together its many moving parts with expert precision, like a chef attacking his signature dish.
And it's a signature dish we've seen served in other forms before, with Fincher returning to a genre he's familiar with. Like Seven or Zodiac, there's a serial killer and a mystery to unravel, but there's a reason why we're so drawn to those films, and it's because David Fincher is a master at keeping us on the edge of our seats; of frightening us, and challenging us with graphic imagery that's equal parts violent, disgusting, and, yes, kinda erotic. This is the kind of material that turns Fincher on -- you get a sense that he agreed to this adaptation simply because he loves a good challenge. And this is certainly a challenging book with its telling multiple storylines featuring several different characters you're forced to become familiar with fairly early on. Oh, and there's also a violent anal rape scene, and an even scarier anal-rape-revenge scene.
Look: The Ultimate 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' Image Gallery
Which brings us to Rooney Mara's performance as one of the more memorable characters of the decade, Lisbeth Salandar. She's someone you never quite understand and don't really want to -- a brilliant mind trapped inside a tortured body and a broken soul, suffering the consequences of past deeds every second of every day. Mara owns every inch of this role, acting as an extension of Fincher's directorial style. She's cold, calculated, scary, sexy and wounded -- she will turn you on and kick you in the face at the same time; fearlessly moving throughout the film like an actress on a mission to become Hollywood's next big star. And yes, this performance will make her Hollywood's next big star. Hopefully she'll do at least one more with Fincher; they fit right together.
The rest of the cast serves their purpose and get the job done, and you won't be wrong in not feeling much for any of the characters aside from Salandar, who you'll never truly understand (and probably won't want to). But the book is the same way, and you get the sense it's that way for a reason. It's cold, like the weather in Sweden, like its characters, and like its storylines. It punches you in the gut and never says its sorry, and that's something you'll either like about it or not like about it. But regardless of the weaknesses of its story, you won't be able to take your eyes off this film for a second. From its bizarre, freakalicious opening sequence, the thing just grabs you by the eye-sockets and drags you through every inch of its dark, twisted world. And while you might feel a little dirty once the credits begin to roll, you'll be glad you went along for the ride.