Rated R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was, much like the book it was based on, a tense thriller that meandered a bit with secondary stories that didn't seem to have much to do with the main story line.
Magazine editor Mikael Blomkvist wrote an article that turned out to be full of falsehoods and after being sued, he leaves his company for a job in the Swedish wilderness. And old tycoon by the name of Vanger hires Blomkvist to investigate a murder from the past. Vanger's niece died years ago but without the trace of a body. Vanger believes the truth is still out there and thinks Blomkvist is the man to find it. Meanwhile, the troubled and talented researcher Lisbeth Salander, having researched Blomkvist's past for Vanger, is having problems of her own. After being brutally attacked by a man who was supposed to look out for her, Salander turns the tables on him and shortly thereafter is approached by Blomkvist to help him solve the Vanger murder. The two team up in a race against the clock as the murdered knows they're about to be caught, but refuse to go down without a fight.
I've read the book and seen the Swedish version of the film, and to me they all had the same problem. Now, I'm saying this having NOT read/seen the second and third parts of the trilogy, but I feel like the movie at least should be able to stand on its own without me knowing what's going to happen next. The entire story of Blomkvist working for Vanger and trying to find out what happened to Vanger's niece makes perfect sense and it by itself a great story. The problem I have is that Lisbeth's part in it doesn't take place until more than halfway through the movie, which means there are a lot of scenes of her that, while giving us some background on her, don't add a thing to the main story. She gets brutally attacked by a social worker and soon after, pays him back tenfold, but other than showing she's able to overcome adversity the rest of us wouldn't be able to, it doesn't do much for the Vanger story. The other story line was about the article Blomkvist wrote that got him into trouble. What did it have to do with the main story? It's used as a bit of bait for him to take the Vanger job in the first place, but it's basically never mentioned again until the end of the film, which made it feel not very important. And then even after that, Lisbeth goes on this wild journey of her own and ends up stealing hundreds of millions of dollars which again, seems to have no point. I think it'll play into the next film but for this one I didn't see the point. There could be an argument made that she did it because she fell in love with Blomkvist and wanted to make a life with him, but I don't see how spending 10-15 minutes at the end of an already very long film was necessary to get that point across.
All that being said, the movie was very engrossing. Even after reading the book and seeing the original film, and knowing full well where everything was headed, I was still on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what happened next. Since this film was in English, I have to give the nod to this film over the original, but they're pretty close. Noomi Rapace got a ton of notoriety from playing Lisbeth in the Swedish film, and deservedly so. But Rooney Mara underwent a transformation unlike any I've seen in my lifetime. To go from the girl that dumps Mark Zuckerberg to playing Lisbeth was an amazing 180 and she pulled it off brilliantly. It was easily the best acting performance I've seen this year, male or female. If she doesn't get an Oscar nod, it'll be ridiculous. The rest of the cast was decent, but none of them had even a tenth of the depth of character that Mara did. While her background story didn't have a whole lot to do with the main story, it was nice to get the background on her because it made us empathize with her even more. It showed how she was a loner who constantly had bad things happen to her, and when she met Blomkvist, she finally fell for the right guy, someone she thought she could open up to. Except it didn't quite work out that way. I think if the movie focused a little bit more on their relationship (which was definitely more important in the book), her entire background story would have made more sense. But in the film their relationship was treated as importantly as it should have been. I have a feeling if I go ahead and read the second book it'll all make more sense.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was a bit too long with a tacked on beginning and ending, but the main story was as strong as ever. Rooney Mara gives the performance of the year, and on a random note, the opening credit sequence was one of the creepiest and coolest things you'll see at the movies this season.