There are many devoted fans of the highly acclaimed novels written by Swedish author Stiegg Larsson and there is also a strong following for the original film adaptations that also came out of Sweden (myself included), so creating another version for U.S. audiences with mainstream Hollywood actors would have high expectations and would also be looked at with a fair amount of skepticism.
David Fincher may be the only director working today that could do this film justice while still honoring the style, mood, and quality of both the books and the previous films. The story centers around journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who is hired by a wealthy businessman named Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to uncover the family mystery of what really happened to a niece that disappeared 40 years earlier.
We are also introduced to the title character, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who was originally tasked with investigating Mr. Blomkvist to see if he was worthy of being hired by Vanger, but then is eventually recruited by her former subject to aid him in his investigation. Lisbeth has problems of her own in dealing with a troubled past and her new court appointed legal guardian that has taken control of her finances and forces her to submit to whatever he desires to gain access to it.
During the duo's investigation of the Vanger family tragedy, the only things that are uncovered are more layers of intrigue and mystery and the pair realize they may be pulling themselves in to something much larger than the disappearance of a teenage girl. Clues lead to several Vanger family members being involved in what could potentially be a murderous trail of secrets and veiled attempts at putting a stop to the investigation only strengthen their resolve to discover what has really been happening over the last 40 years if not longer.
Fincher is able to piece together the complex story and multitude of characters in essentially the same way it is presented in the Swedish version, but where he sets himself apart is in the performances he draws out of the entire cast.
From the absolutely brilliant take on Lisbeth by Rooney Mara to each and every one of the Vanger family members, you get very distinct personalities that all play off of each other perfectly. Daniel Craig brings a steadiness and calm to his character that balances the wild ferocity of Mara and the deceptive guile of the various members of the Vanger clan.
As daring of a performance as Noomi Rapace gave in her original version of Lisbeth, Mara just seems to take the intensity of the character to another level and gives a performance that will at least give her an Oscar nomination if not an eventual victory as well. From the moment she enters the frame of her first scene in the film, you see that this is a very complex and troubled person and Mara is eventually able to show the audience more and more of the woman as she grows out of her shell and starts to take control of her life.
When thinking back on this film, I wish I had an opportunity to watch it without having already seen the Swedish version as there was so much to compare and contrast. Even so, this was a very engaging thriller that has no shortage of plot twists and overlapping story lines that all add up to a very satisfying experience and Rooney Mara's performance alone is enough to recommend it as a movie you need to watch.