It’s a story that begins when a well-known journalist is asked to investigate a 40-year-old murder mystery. But readers of the Millenium series know The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not just about journalist Mikael Blomkvist, but also his research assistant and computer-hacking friend/lover Lisbeth Salander.
Not only is this a murder mystery, but the beginning of one of the most adult relationships either character has ever had. They round each other out, thus helping to solve the murder of young Harriet Vanger, the niece of a wealthy Swedish entrepreneur.
The movie version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo follows the plot of the murder mystery in close detail. Blomkvist’s discoveries with the old photographs and Lisbeth’s research into the Biblical references in victim Harriet Vanger’s journals are played out in the movie. What’s changed here are some of the aspects of the characters’ personal lives.
For instance, in the novel, Blomkvist is much more of a playboy, sleeping with not only his co-worker, Erika Berger, and Lisbeth Salander, but also Cecilia Vanger, one of the many relatives of murder victim, Harriet. But the movie doesn’t acknowledge the sexual relationship between Cecilia Vanger and Blomkvist. The movie also leaves out the subplot about Lisbeth’s mother dying. The movie doesn’t feel lost without it — in fact, it’s very jam-packed — but it would have been nice to see that played out, if for no other purpose than to give viewers a glimpse into Lisbeth’s personal life.
Despite the relatively minor plot changes, the movie not only does justice to the book, but enhances it. The only problem I ever had with the novel is that keeping track of the Vanger family — and all the characters, really — grew to be exhausting. But seeing it onscreen and being able to put faces to names helped.
A few other highlights of the movie are the performances, the music, and the graphic scenes. Rooney Mara kills it as Lisbeth Salander, in the way she speaks, works, and even carries herself; and Daniel Craig as Blomkvist is a perfect fit — believable, smart, and sexy, just as I imagined Blomkvist to be. The strange and ominous music, written by Trent Reznor (The Social Network), helps to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. The soundtrack is as uncomfortable and piercing as some of the scenes are.
David Fincher does not shy from the graphic style of the book, clearly portraying the scenes of Lisbeth’s sexual abuse and rape, her violence against her abuser, and the torture of Blomkvist at the end. I admit, I had to close my eyes for much of these scenes, and the rape had me so upset, I cried. As a woman, reading that scene was extremely difficult. But to see it played out onscreen was excruciating.
All in all, the power of the novel comes through on camera, and whether you loved the book or couldn’t quite get through it, the movie is definitely worth seeing — especially before awards season starts.