I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better director than David Fincher for bringing the grim The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to the silver screen. Fincher’s previous endeavors into society’s dark underbelly include Seven and Zodiac. With Dragon Tattoo, Fincher blends the taut drama of Zodiac and the gruesome terror of Seven, creating a stark, nightmarish reality.
The story tells the tale of a disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) investigating the disappearance of a girl going on forty years ago.
Blomkvist is aided in his search by Lisbeth Salander, who is played by Rooney Mara. Lisbeth is a highly skilled computer hacker and a severely damaged individual. I will be blunt: There is an absolutely brutal rape scene that involves Lisbeth. It’s a cringe-inducing, eye-averting sequence that stretches its five minutes unbearably long. It also caused at least a few seats to be emptied in the theatre. What stuck with me however, was the unwavering dedication that Mara exhibited in that scene and throughout the film. This is her film. She is Lisbaeth, and what a multi-layered character she is. She’s a total badass, yet completely vulnerable. There are moments when Lisbeth appears to have been born weathered by abuse and hardened by neglect, and others when she seems like a child who happens to have tattoos and piercings. Lisbeth tries hard to be ugly, yet exudes incredible sexuality. She’s a complete paradox and wholly engrossing.
Fincher always gets a lot from his actors, but never more so than here. Mara’s performance is indelible, making this film work. Fincher makes a movie that is brimming with graphic sexual violence; I wonder how I was able to stand it. I remember Lisbeth. I could take it, because her character was tough enough to overcome it. Now that’s a great performance.