Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

★★★★ A

Director:  David Fincher
Writers: Steven Zaillian (screenplay), Stieg Larsson (novel)
Stars: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer

I try to make a habit of reading a novel prior to going to see a film adaptation, in
This case I did see the film first. I must say that I found the character of Lisbeth Salander to be so uniquely powerful and engaging, that within 12 hours I started reading the second of the trilogy (The Girl the Play with Fire)and am now pages away from completing book three.

The film is set in Sweden and opens as Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) a journalist and Co-owner of the small monthly magazine Millennium, is leaving a courthouse in Stockholm, over-run by reporters. Each fighting to get Blomkvist to provide some quotable clip in response to him loosing a libel suit brought by leveled against him by Hans-Erik Wennerstrom (Ulf Friberg) in response to a scathing report he published against what we recognize as a clearly corrupt businessman.
Blomkvist returns to the Millennium offices, embarrassed, his moderate savings and more precious reputation both lost, to tell his co-owner, and occasional lover, Erika Berger (Robin Wright) that he has decided to resign to save the company any further embarrassment plus limit Millennium’s financial exposure.

Cut away to man we learn represents, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the retired CEO of Vanger Industries sitting in the upscale offices of Milton Security speaking to Dragan Armansky (Goran Vijnic) the owner, whose firm had been hired to complete a background check on Blomkvist. It is clear that Mr. Vanger’s representative has to be certain of the thoroughness of the investigation; so despite a warning that while Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is his best investigator she rarely actually speaks direct to clients, but that he would have her give her report personally. It is at this moment that we are introduced to one of the strangest and yet most riveting female characters to ever appear on screen. We are first struck by her facial piercings,
multiple tattoos and clothing that would draw attention at all but the most hard-core underground clubs. The client is at first taken back by her appearance, youth and general “Fu@k You” attitude, but he quickly realizes why Armansky gave her the assignment, what she lacks in social graces, she makes up for in intellect and an ability to use her computer hacking skills to find that which other investigators would have missed.

Short on options, Blomkvist accepts a meeting at the Vanger estate on Hedeby Island a place that seems as remote as it does a landscape that keeps it secrets.
The elder Vanger informs that his interest in hiring Blomkvist to investigate the 40 year old murder of his beloved niece Harriet Vanger, who disappeared from the island without a trace. Our reporter is disturbed by his hosts conviction that it was a family member responsible for the murder. Henrik, gives Blomkvist a quick tour pointing out the several homes, all occupied by family members each with a brief. unflattering description of the inhabitants.
The proposition was that Mikael will stay in a cottage near the main estate under the pretence that he was employed to write a memoir about Henrik, the company he built and his life, while in truth he would be conducting an investigation into the long-ago- disappearance of then 16 year old Harriet. Blomkvist saw little he could offer to such a long- cold case as expressed as much, but the offer from Henrik that he had evidence against Wennerstrom, was an offer he could not refuse.

When again we see Lisbeth, we learn that years prior, a court had declared her legally incompetent, making her a ward of the state and placed under Guardianship. We find that Her long time legal guardian Holger Palmgren (Bengt C.W. Carlsson) has suffered a stroke and in turn has been assigned to a small time lawyer named Nils Bjurman (Yorick Van Wageningen).
Lisbeth asks him for funds from own account needed to replace a broken iMac, Bjurman refuses her access to her money till she agrees to perform oral sex. Her hatred for this man is made clear as is the fact that Lisbeth is a woman who has always needed to do what was necessary to survive. As we learn in this film, and more so in the later books; while far from saintly, she is a woman with a clear, sense of morality. She is also one that has zero tolerance toward any man that would victimize a woman, and zero reluctance to inflict vengeance on the guilty.

With revenge in mind, she agrees to meet Bjurman at his home at the guise of requesting money for food. Assuming that he will once again request oral sex, she comes prepared with a hidden camera to record the event to use against him. However once at his apartment, he takes his depravity to new level when he handcuffs her to his bed and proceeds to violently rape and sodomize her. Fincher does not pull back, or pull away, what we see is a truly disturbing, graphic depiction of a brutal, dehumanizing rape. There are people that will call the filming unnecessarily graphic, and contend that the action could have been communicated without the nudity, and or with the camera focused on Salander’s face, her screams and tears telling the story. True enough, but it was clear that Fincher felt we needed to truly be disturbed by this scene to grasp to true horror, and her subsequent actions.

With revenge in mind, she agrees to meet Bjurman at his home at the guise of requesting money for food. Assuming that he will once again request oral sex, she comes prepared with a hidden camera to record the event to use against him. However once at his apartment, he takes his depravity to new level when he handcuffs her to his bed and proceeds to violently rape and sodomize her. Fincher does not pull back, or pull away, what we see is a truly disturbing, graphic depiction of a brutal, dehumanizing rape. There are people that will call the filming unnecessarily graphic, and contend that the action could have been communicated without the nudity, and or with the camera focused on Salander’s face, her screams and tears telling the story. True enough, but it was clear that Fincher felt we needed to truly be disturbed by this scene to grasp to true horror, and her subsequent actions.

Blomkvist pulls out his laptop as well using a wall in the cottage to sort out the menagerie of suspects. His investigation’s first breakthrough comes when finds a notebook of Harriets that contains a list of five names, each with a five-digit number. The names are young woman, all victims of unsolved murders. It is an unexpected visit from his daughter from a long ago disolved marrage, helps him realise that the numbers refer to bible verses in the Book of Leviticus each points the to the way the woman was killed.

Lisbeth returns to Bjurman apartment under the pretence of needing more money, as soon as she inside she tasers him, and the hunter becomes the pray. She quickly ties him up Tying him, strips him up and tortures him in what is a perfect book-end to rape she received by his hands. This scene is as disturbingly violent, but we find it difficult to have much sympathy for such a loathsome character. While he is still tied and with a rather large object inserted she shows him a recording of him raping her and makes it clear that if he does not follow her instructions to the letter she will upload the video to the net. part of her rules include that she would kill him if she finds out that he ever brings another woman to his apartment. To make his forced celibacy “Easier” she tattoos “I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT, AND A RAPIST”   across his chest and stomach.

Henrik becomes sick resulting in Blomkvist now reporting to his nephew and current CEO of Vanger, Martin Vanger (Stellan Skarsgaard), the brother of brother of Harriet. When Blomkvist requests a research assistant he is told that a background had been done on him, when Blomkvist seen the file, he realizes that the only way that they could have gotten some of the information was via accessing his computer; and demands that Armansky give him Lizbeth’s address.

Lisbeth is in bed with another woman when Blomkvist arrives. At first she wants nothing to do with helping him, but when he revals that he is on the hunt for a man that tortures and kills woman, she agrees to help.

We see Blomkvist back on the island walking the grounds when he is grazed by a bullet from a distant gunman. He quickly sets back for the cottage and finds Lisbeth there and in the process of installing surveillance cameras. She treats his wound and to his surprise undresses and climbs on top of him.

The following morning Blomkvist finds a photos taken the day Harriet went missing. The pictures are of a parade Harriet is clearly seen in several pictures, in one it appears that she has seen something that frightened her. After checking old achieves he finds the somewhat blurred image of a man he believes to be both the subject of Harriet’s fear and the killer. Returning back to the cottage Lisbeth and him share the information each uncovered, and decide that they will need to gain access to Vanger’s company’s old files to see if they could match-up the times and locations of the killings to eliminate any suspects.

As Lisbeth Sandler sorts through rooms of old records, she concludes that Henrik’s, now deceased brother, Gottfried Vanger, was in the same town on the same day that each of the women were murdered, well all but one, and that happened two years after Gottfried downed by his home on the island.

Blomkvist is convinced that the man in the picture is the killer, but his face is not seen. Searching for answers he interviews more family members, at the home of one he sees an old photo that shows him wearing a school uniform thats looks strikingly like the one the young man in the parade photo. Blomkvist shows him that photo and asks him if he knows who that man is; “That it is Martin when he was only a teenager.”

Independently, Sandler, still searching through the archives, uncovers photos where Martin can be seen in the background at events that linked Gottfried to the dates and times of the killing. She further uncovered that the last victim attended the same school as Martin It was at that moment that she realised That Martin had continued the killing spree of his father.

Again Lisbeth and Blomkivst reach the same basic conclusion, but are unable to reach each other by phone. Blomkvist goes to Martin’s home and breaks in with the hope of finding some additional evidence. Hearing Martin’s return he slips out of the house but is stopped by Martin who invites him into the house for a drink. Fincher shows us that Blomkvist has taken a sharp kitchen knife, and creates a nail-biting-scene as we learn that like the audience, Martin also knows that Blomkvist has been in the home and has a missing knife. Martin is fully aware that Blomkvist knows his secret that he will not allow him to leave alive. Martin pull out a gun and leads him down the stairs to a secret basement room. Martin hits him over the head, and when he awakes he finds his hand tied and and his hanging by the neck. Blomkvist is struggling to breathe, as Martin proudly tells him that he is in the very place where the murders had taken place in fact boasting that he had a girl prisoner in this very spot the first day that Blomkvist had been invited to his home. Despite his willing ness to admit to the murders, he became incensed when Blomkvist asked why he killed Harriet, insisting that he had no idea what happened to her. His game with Blomkvist done he is poised to kill him when Lisbeth surprises him with a golf club to the face. A stunned Martin flees the house, Lisbeth lowers Blomkvist and asks permission to kill Martin. Martin takes off in his Range Rover with Lisbeth on her sport bike following him. Martin looses control of his car, slams into a building and we see the car burst into flames. Lisbeth watches the fire, looking a bit disappointed that she was robbed of the opportunity of killing him herself.

The killer is dead but they still have no real answer as to what happened to Harriet. Blomkvist travels to london to visit Anita (Joely Richardson) who was the Harriet’s best friend all those years ago, but is taken back by her lack of surprise when given the news of Martins death or all they had discovered. Their plan is to listen into an trace the call that they are certain Anita will make to Harriet who they believe is in hiding. When the call is never made Blomkvist comes to the conviction that Anita and Harriet are one in the same. Going back to her home she finally tells the secret that she kept for decades, that she was the victim of repeated rapes by her father Gottfried and later joined by Martin. One night she was out by the lake when Gottfried came after her, she struck him in the head; he fell into the lake and drowned. With Martin away at boarding school, she thought she was free, but on the day of the parade when she saw Martin, she knew she had to flee and assume another identity. It was in fact Harriet that had been the one sending Henrik the flowers; not to upset him but with the hope that we would understand her coded message that she was in fact fine.

With Martin dead, Harriet returns to Sweden to be reunited with her uncle Henrik. Blomkvist find that the evidence against Wennerstrom that Henrik has falls far short of what he needs to bring him down.Upset he goes back to the cottage to pack up when Lisbeth tells Blomkvist that she had hacked into Wennerstrom computer and gives him all the information he will need to bring the guy down and regain his journalistic credibility.
By all accounts this should be the end of the story, but we find that that the exposé results in Wennerstrom going into hiding with over $300 million dollars, and we find out that after several days underworld investors get their revenge and Wennerstrom turns up dead.

Still with access to all Wennerstrom’s computer files, passwords and account information, Lisbeth creates a fake identity and disguise and sets of for Europe where, armed with all his information she is able to empty out his companies accounts, without leaving any trail leading to her. With all evidence pointing to Wennerstrom being the one that ran off with all the money, we find out that after several days underworld investors get their revenge and Wennerstrom turns up dead.

Lisbeth Slander is finally happy, she is in love for the first time, and she has hundreds of millions of dollars to keep her and Blomkvist set for life. She has the romantic notion of having a tailor recreate and old motorcycle jacket she saw him wearing in a photo saved on his laptop. Just as Slandler, is ready to tell him she loves him, she sees him arm in arm with his coeditor Erika, and quickly tosses his gift in the trash. Rooney Mara, does a wonderful job of showing us a woman in pain, but one that blames her self for falling for Blomkvist since he never lied to her. Always the survivor, the film ends with her on her motorcycle driving away.

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One Response to Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

  1. Larry Lubell says:

    Ok, the review got a little long.

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