‘Dragon Tattoo’ a Thrilling Success

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By Lane Roberts

“Rape, torture, fire, animals, religion…am I missing anything?”

David Fincher’s adaptation of the first installment of Steig Larsson’s immensely popular Millenium trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, certainly did not avoid any of the more disturbing, gruesome themes of the novel, and it is now well on its way towards becoming the most talked about films of the year.

Before Larsson died in 2004, he released the manuscripts for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two successors, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.When he was 15 years old, Larsson witnessed the gang rape of a girl, which inspired his recurring theme of sexual violence against women in his novels.

Its staggering popularity was unexpected.  As of June 2011, 15 million copies had been sold in the United States alone.

Most surprising and alluring about the trilogy is its unlikely heroine. Brilliant but deeply damaged, expert hacker Lisbeth Salander is the tattooed title character of the series.

Salander’s appeal rises from a unique combination of vulnerability and ruthlessness.  She often faces abuse from predatory men, but is more than capable of revenge. Rooney Mara, a relative unknown prior to this film, captures Salander’s volatile essence gracefully.

The story takes audiences to the frozen landscape of Hedestad in Sweden where financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has been hired by former industrial tycoon Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to try to solve a 40 year old mystery, beginning with a car accident during the summer of 1966 that made leaving or entering the island impossible.

Amidst the chaos, Henrik’s grandniece, Harriet, disappeared, and Henrik is certain that Harriet was murdered. Furthermore, he is convinced that one of the members of his family is responsible, not entirely without reason: the Vanger clan includes more than a few Nazis, rapists, and alcoholics.

When Mikael, with the help of Salander, link Harriet’s disappearance with a number of grotesque rape-homicides committed over the past four decades, they unlock a family secret that may put them in danger.

My one complaint about the film is the speed with which it moves through events. With a two hour and 38 minute run time, it is hard to believe that there wouldn’t be enough time to fully flesh out certain aspects of the story. However, even I, having read the novel – twice – felt a little lost during some scenes.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Fincher mentioned that he didn’t feel the need to make any overtures or explanations for the movie and that “that’s the good news about a book that’s sold 65 million copies.” Fincher assumes that anyone seeing the film will have read the series, an interesting assumption considering the popular perception of America’s reading habits.

Given the oppressive tone and gruesome material, some audiences may have a tough time with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  That said, it is one of the most provocative films of the year and will deliver a thrilling ride for devoted fans of the book series and those who enjoy Fincher’s darker works.

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