Monday, January 9, 2012


Although I have not read the best-selling novel by Stieg Larsson upon which this film is based, I have seen the 2009 Swedish version.  And because the new English-language adaptation (written by Steven Zaillian and directed by David Fincher) tracks its foreign predecessor nearly to the letter, I feel confident proclaiming that both versions closely hew to the popular source material.  Wealthy entrepreneur Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) hires disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) to determine what happened to his niece Harriet, who vanished from the family’s island compound 40 years earlier and is believed to have been murdered.  When his investigation puts him on the trail of a serial killer predating the girl’s disappearance by several years, Blomkvist requests a research assistant.  He receives Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the tattooed and pierced cyber savant sociopath who performed Blomqvist’s background check for Vanger.  The film only alludes to past events which turned Lisbeth into an androgynous grotesque, but she has adequate present day problems.  As a 20-something ward of the state, Lisbeth must report to (and get access to her own funds from) sleazy social worker Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), who isn’t above sexual blackmail.  With the reluctant assistant of Vanger’s nephew Martin (Stellan Skarsgard) and estranged niece Anita (Joely Richardson), Blomkvist and Lisbeth delve deeper into the family’s sordid history until the corruption and depravity threaten to consume them.  The performances are uniformly excellent.  Craig makes for an appealing if ethically questionable hero, while Mara hints at the wounded child underneath Lisbeth’s feral exterior.  Zaillian’s efficient yet atmospheric script clarifies Larsson’s lumbering plot but sets up the next film with a confusing, overlong epilogue.  Fincher’s elegant direction evokes the bleakness of character and setting, while creating a growing sense of dread.  That said, the film’s subject matter is unsavory to the point of moral rot, and one can’t help but wonder who besides fans of the book would find this enjoyable.  And I even wonder about them.


  1. Moral rot, indeed. From reviews I've read (since I won't be viewing this) it sounds like an expose of abuse that ends up subjecting viewers, well, abuse. Not going to put those images in my head/heart.

    Thanks for your insightful reviews, Brian.

  2. Third on the moral rot. While I respect Fincher for not being graphic here or in past films, I don't understand the need to spend so much time in such dark areas. The film was unsatisfying for all its depravity (unlike "Se7en"). I suppose I can blame this and the disappointing reveal on the original books which I've not and won't read. Maybe they at least explains things more satisfactorily than the movie A well-made, well-acted film not worth its nearly three hours. Oh, and so right about the overlong epilogue.

    1. Well, Cardinal, we agree to disagree on Fincher's "Se7en". I watched it again a couple of years ago (to make sure I hadn't missed something) and still find it too nihilistic. A wallowing in awfulness for its own sake. Not unlike this film but with less of a command of the craft.