Courtesy of The New York Post:
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is, as you’d expect, rubbish, but the word is slightly too kind. The David Fincher film (like the very similar Swedish one — released in the US just last year! — and the book) is not even good rubbish. It demonstrates merely that masses will thrill to an unaffecting, badly written, psychologically shallow and deeply unlikely pulp story so long as you allow them to feel sanctified by the occasional meaningless reference to feminism or Nazis.
In much the same way, you could consume a greasy mound of animal fat, put a sprig of parsley on top and proclaim that you’ve eaten a balanced meal.
The basic story hasn’t changed: crusading Stockholm journalist Mikael Blomkvist (a dopey and scowling Daniel Craig) has just lost a libel suit against an evil corporation. (He ran a story based on a single anonymous source whose identity even he apparently didn’t know — let’s hear it for hero journalists!) He’s hired by a wealthy industrialist (Christopher Plummer) whose teen great-niece Harriet disappeared in 1966 and is presumed dead. Each year, though, a present of the kind she used to send him arrives in the mail.
You’d think that after a few decades of this, an old man would give up, but it turns out the geezer has been waiting all this time for a crusading journo to show up, and Blomkvist is just the reporter he needs to solve the mystery. Helpful to Blomkvist’s investigation is that the final hours of this ordinary girl were as extensively photographed as JFK’s fateful day in Dallas, and none of this evidence has been misplaced in all these years.
Before he gets hired, though, a junior supersleuth, the dorsally adorned Goth genius of the title, Lisbeth Salander, has been hired by the family to do an astoundingly thorough background check on him. She’s a hacker and spy who even knows all about the manner in which he makes whoopie with his boss and shagfellow (Robin Wright).
We know she’s a genius because she has Bobby Fischer books lying around and can memorize a tabletop’s worth of scattered documents at a glance, although she is not bright enough not to enter the apartment, alone, of a scumbag who has already coerced her into sex.
Because this is a thriller, we need some love scenes, icky as they may be. Blomkvist hires her as his researcher and is nonplussed to find her stripping naked and jumping his bones. There is no psychological setup for this, no explanation for why she, who has a long history of being abused by older males, would be into him (initially she is more into girls) or why he, with his office girlfriend and daughter almost Lisbeth’s age, would feel OK about this. It’s just weird. It’s Joe-Biden-tongue-wrestling-Hillary-Clinton weird.
As Lisbeth, Rooney Mara disappears into the role (it helps that we barely knew her before; she was in “The Social Network” for a few minutes). She’s fiercely committed and not to be messed with. (Which is another reason it’s so odd Blomkvist would do exactly this). The scenes of her dueling with her repulsive legal guardian, a puffy perv who controls her access to money and intends to make her his sex slave, are effectively grotesque and terrifying. But the distance between these scenes and sadistic porn is about as thick as a tattoo. Some movies make you feel. This one makes you feel like a shower.
I’ll give Fincher credit for keeping things ripping along so quickly, but let’s not make a virtue out of necessity. His point is to speed past how much dumb and/or absurd stuff is happening. Seriously, who, when getting grazed by a bullet, continues on with everyday business instead of trying to find out who is shooting at him? Who leaves his secret torture chamber unsecured?
Once the hype dies, this movie will be best enjoyed as a drinking game. Down a shot of Absolut every time Craig whips his glasses on or off and you’ll be blitzed by the halfway point. When he can’t figure out an excuse to do that, he does bizarre things with the specs, such as leaving them dangling beneath his face like a chin strap. The poor man is under the delusion that eyewear can make anything here seem intelligent.