“I’m concerned you won’t like her. She’s different.”

David Fincher is the perfect director for this movie. His gritty-yet-sophisticated style is perfect to capture the tone and character depth from Stieg Larsson’s novel. David Fincher has proven in the past that he knows how to weave detailed story lines onscreen, and this film in no exception. It manages to maintain the most important details of the book without “dumbing down” the source material for us Amuricans. The shock, the awe, the excitement of the detective-like story is not lost. Overall though, Fincher’s most lasting impact on this film is that it does not feel cold. The film is dark in all the right places, but compared to the Swedish version, refreshingly light in others. This makes for a movie that is not only entertaining due to its shock value and thrilling twists, but also because the characters seem real.

Story: Mikeal Blomkvist is a publisher of a Swedish political magazine. When he publishes an article hurling accusations at a powerful businessman, Hans-Erik Wennerstrom, he is tried and convicted of libel. As a result, Blomkvist is heckled by the media and is forced to pay hefty fines for his crime, which threaten the stability of his magazine. Meanwhile, Henrik Vanger, another powerful businessman, and rival of Wennerstram, has ordered an investigation into Blomkvist. This investigation is carried out by Lisbeth Salander, a young woman who has been ruled as an incompetent individual by the government due to her troubled past. Eventually, Blomkvist passes the inspection and Vanger invites him to his home. Vanger wants to employ Blomkvist to investigate the murder of his niece. In return, Blomkvist is promised money and information that will allow him to get back at Wennerstrom. As Blomkvist investigates the murder, he soon finds himself over his head. He asks Lisbeth to help him, and together they unearth a shocking secret buried deep in the history of the Vanger family…Good (22/25)

Acting: Daniel Craig stars as Blomkvist and fits it perfectly. He is tough, sophisticated, emotional, and smart. This story puts the character through a wide range of emotional material, and Craig is both believable and intriguing to watch. Opposite Craig is Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. Mara is totally committed to the role, and you can tell. Every heartbreak, every challenge, every success that she goes through, so does the audience. It is truly an emotionally captivating performance, and opposite Craig’s wit, makes the movie a successful character-driven piece. Christopher Plummer is also here, as Henrik Vanger, who always does a good job. The rest of the cast is powerful as well. Great (25/25)

Direction: This film feels very similar to Social Network in terms of directional style. Yes, the film is still very dark with Fincher’s trademark focus on black and white, but a lot is borrowed from Social Network. This includes the almost atmospheric music, distanced shots of characters outdoors, and close-ups of faces during conversations. Fincher knows how to use his camera angles well, and the result is that the most shocking moments in the movie are well captured. This film marks Fincher’s return to Se7en-esque brutality, but combined with the story telling and character-driven drama that Fincher has been learning how to do with the films he has done since Zodiac. This combination is powerful and artistic, making Fincher in my opinion one of the strongest directors in Hollywood at the moment. Good (23/25)

Special Effects/X-Factor: The cinematography and attention to detail in this film are amazing despite the cold and sparse setting. The flashbacks are the highlight, and here Fincher is able to add much to the film in the way he makes the character’s younger selves look believable, much like he did in Benjamin Button.  As such, success in both the visual and the story/character departments make this film a solid adaptation of the original novel. But this is also the films’ biggest fault. As a film adaptation of a novel, it is not impervious to the problems inherent of such a connection. The story, characters, and details in a film adaptation will never be as clear as in the original source material, it is simply a limitation of using film to convey a story. Still, this version does what it can to create strong characters and capture as much detail as possible from the plot, but compared to the Swedish film version, it is less edgy, despite its attempts to be. Good (21/25)

The Verdict: (91/100) = A- (Highly Recommended)

  • The Good: Remarkably strong performances by Craig and Mara create strong characters, who together with an intriguing detailed plot and David Fincher’s experienced direction, make for a solid film adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s crime novel.
  • The Bad: Just as susceptible to the follies of bringing a novel to the big screen as any other adaptation, not quite as edgy as the Swedish film, detailed plot can get confusing at times.

Summary: A solid and suitable film for those who have and have not read the novel.

If you liked this film, I suggest: Rated: The Ghost Writer (2010)

My previous review: Rated: Soylent Green (1973)

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