I’m convinced that people are attracted to this movie and the book it’s based on for one of two reasons: 1) the allure of the explicit sexuality that’s infamous by now, and 2) it’s got a sweet title. And maybe there’s a third reason: wildly mistaken word of mouth. I never would have thought twice about Stieg Larsson’s stories if they had not been so hyped. I started the first book but didn’t finish, because it was too boring, and it had more sexual content than the story had earned. When I plugged the movie in, I thought that the second half the story, the part I skipped out on in the book, might be more entertaining; but, after seeing the movie, I can see I was wrong. It’s all boring.
Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a disgraced journalist, is hired by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate his granddaughter’s disappearance 36 years ago in exchange for clearing Blomkvist’s name. Mikael brings in Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the woman who did Mikael’s background check for Vanger, to assist him. She is a crackerjack hacker and also supremely difficult to get along with. Lisbeth and Mikael work together in an unlikely partnership to uncover the Vanger family’s secrets. Most of the family lives on the same island, and their detective work leads to dark, sexual violence and manufactured twists.
To be fair, the problems with this movie do not lie in how it was made or in the creativity of the filmmakers. David Fincher is a great director (see Se7en, Zodiac, The Social Network, and some parts of Fight Club), and he’s done a good job here of establishing the characters and allowing them to breathe. The mood he’s fashioned for his movie is awfully (and satisfyingly) dark and suffocating.
The problem lies in Larsson’s story; it kind of sucks. The Vanger family simply isn’t interesting apart from the mystery surrounding them. No character holds our attention on their own merits. Larsson seems to have wanted to play into people’s desires for salacious scandal and bizarro crimes, but neglected everything else. The characters are bland (with the exception of Lisbeth- more on that in a second), and the payoff at the end is terrible.
Luckily, the movie is gorgeous, well-made, and well-acted. Daniel Craig is interesting in a role that’s nothing like James Bond. He’s decidedly uncomfortable with violence, and Craig looks perfectly out of place in the world he’s fallen into. Rooney Mara is undeniably the center of the movie, and the best thing about it. She truly lifts this story out of the shady dumpster Larsson discarded it in. Her reactions are downright animalistic, yet she gives us a glimpse into Salander’s real emotions through her facade of hardness.
It’s an okay movie, all in all. The story is boring and it rates far lower than its hype bar suggests. Also, the sexual violence is too much, considering the low quality of the story.