"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" has grossed more than $77 million internationally since opening on Dec. 21. These early numbers suggest a loyal following from those familiar with Stieg Larsson's novel of the same name, which the film is based on.
Others viewers are likely following up on the 2009 Swedish version of the film, which received much critical acclaim and box-office success, exceeding $100 million on a $13 million dollar production budget.
For those who have neither read the novel nor watched the original, there may be some apprehension in taking the plunge to watch the 2011 version in fear of feeling left behind. One of my friends even told me, "You have to read the book before watching the movie."
So, like a rebellious teenager wanting a tattoo after mom said no, I went anyway.
The film introduces Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist for Millennium Magazine, who has recently lost a libel case against businessman Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Struggling for money and credibility, Blomkvist is given an opportunity to regain both by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a wealthy, retired industrialist.
Blomkvist accepts the job offer presented by Henrik: write a Vanger family history, and in doing so, solve the 40 year-old murder case of Henrik's niece, Harriet Vanger. In addition to payment, Henrik also promises to give Blomkvist damaging information against Wennerstrom.
As Blomkvist's investigation broadens, he becomes in need of a research assistant. After he discovers that Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) has previously investigated him in an illegal fashion, Blomkvist uses this leverage to influence her to help him. Salander, who has recently been raped and abused by her newly appointed legal guardian, readily accepts the offer when Blomkvist tells her the job consists of "finding a killer of women".
Together, Blomkvist and Salander return to the secluded island where the Vanger family resides, and where Henrik presumes one of them killed Harriet.
Blomkvist and Salander make quick progress in the investigation, and in doing so, find an attraction to one another. As they close in on the potential killer, their own lives are put in jeopardy, and they must choose to either abandon the mission, or pull together and solve it with one last desperate push.
In the two hours and thirty eight minutes this film was playing, I didn't hear one conversation in the audience. I didn't see anyone get up to use the restroom. I didn't even hear popcorn being crunched. The audience was still, in an almost hypnotic state- and it couldn't have been due to boredom.
My favorite thing about the film, and what I think made the film successful, was the setup. We are placed on a foggy island, more or less isolated, and told that someone living there is responsible for murdering a teenage family member. Blomkvist works out of an aging, rickety old wooden cabin with no heat, and at first, no company other than a stray cat.
Not feeling the building suspense? Wait until Blomkvist finds that same cat dismembered outside his cabin door a few days later.
The best part about it all is that the film is not considered a horror movie, but it will give you goose bumps. It's not a romance, but it deals with love (and lust). It's not a sci-fi, but incorporates technology and hacking. It covers a lot of ground, and makes the two and a half hours of footage move rather quickly.
Those going strictly as fans of Daniel Craig's typical hero roles will be disappointed, not because there is no heroism demonstrated, but because it isn't much portrayed by Craig himself. The only person worthy of being labeled 007 in this film is Rooney Mara. She has all the answers, she is in control of the opposite sex, and she beats up all the bad guys.
Craig's performance, regardless of his atypical character role, is outstanding.
Those hoping to take their kids to a family film, this isn't it. This one is rated with a very firm, capital "R".