This English-language adaptation of the Swedish novel by Stieg Larsson follows a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), as he investigates the disappearance of a wealthy patriarch's niece from 40 years ago. He is aided by the pierced, tattooed, punk computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). As they work together in the investigation, Blomkvist and Salander uncover immense corruption beyond anything they have ever imagined.
This was probably the most waited-for movie of this winter, and you can quite understand why. David Fincher, the director behind the Fight Club and the Social Network, took on the bestseller detective by Stieg Larsson and invited Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara to play the lead roles. On every account that should have been a good movie.
But Fincher defied odds twice. Not only had he turned rather boring book into pretty strong plot. He actually filled the Larsson’s universe with atmosphere so palpable, you almost see it filling the room from the screen. He didn’t lie when he put in the trailer the phrase “The feel-bad movie of the year”. It goes against all the Christmas sweetness and fluffiness, it is unsettling and provocative. It realistically depicts psychopaths, rapists, murderers – all the dark sides of life. With almost documentary accuracy he depicts rapes and tortures. This slow-paced movie filled with carefully written dialogs and naturalistic violence, has nevertheless powerful catharsis, inevitably approaching you like the mansion in the trailer. This is not the detective in the usual sense of it – the actual case is solved in less than an hour. This movie was built solely for the purpose of the atmosphere of darkness, and to expect anything else from it would be a miscalculation.
Of course, such powerful atmosphere would not have been possible without the right cast. Rooney Mara, who played in the Social Network under Fincher, is a perfect Lisbeth – very smart outcast, who nevertheless needs love and attention. Cynical and unemotional on the outside, Lisbeth is vulnerable and caring – this is a very difficult role to play convincingly, yet Mara is up to the task perfectly. I have to praise Daniel Craig as well. After this movie I realized, that the Bond role is simply not for him. His Mikael Blomkvist, intelligent but very down-to-earth, is perfect, and I believe this is the type of characters that suit Daniel the best. He plays Mikael on ease, in a stark contrast with Bond where he tries to live up to expectations and make a serious yet ironic face.
There is one flaw with the movie, the missing bit of the overall puzzle – I am talking about Mikael’s daughter and her relationship with her father. The line is told just to put a tick in the respective column; there is no exploration, no purpose – nothing that would illuminate why the character was brought in the story in the first place. Other than that, all the characters are fantastically written and played, they are dark and insane yet convincingly alive.
P.S. The opening credits. These are not so popular nowadays, and the last opening credits that I liked were from the Watchmen. Fincher revitalised the old tradition and introduced amazing credits to the tone of the Immigrant Song, seen in the trailer. For some reason they remind me more of Bond movies than generic credits, but they set the right tone straightaway.
VERDICT: One of the most atmospheric movies of the season, dark, unsettling and insane.
WATCH: if you are tired of the Christmas craze and sweetness, or just want to plunge into the world of psychopaths.