"THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" — ★★★ — Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skaarsgard, Robin Wright; R (vulgar language, nudity, explicit sex, rape, violence, gore, adult themes); in general release
First, the disclaimer. If you've read "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," you know exactly what you're getting into when you buy your movie ticket.
For those who haven't, brace yourself.
With feral magnetism, Rooney Mara is stunning as Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant, troubled ward of the state who is employed as a researcher for a Swedish security company. Her uncanny ability to gather information, legally and otherwise, comes to the attention of Michael Blomqvist, an investigative journalist who has been employed by a powerful industrialist to solve the mysterious disappearance of his niece, 40 years earlier.
Daniel Craig stars as Blomqvist, who only accepts the strange assignment because he is in hot water after being convicted of libeling another prominent industrialist in the pages of the magazine he co-founded with his partner and lover, Erika Berger, played by Robin Wright.
Feeling the best thing he can do is step away from the magazine, he heads for the family compound of Henrik Vanger, patriarch of a frighteningly dysfunctional family, who has promised information that can clear Blomqvist's name. Christopher Plummer, as Vanger, turns the journalist loose with full access to corporate and family records that have ties into Nazism, underhanded dealings and, perhaps, even murder. When Lisbeth joins the team, she helps unearth things that make everything above look fairly tame.
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a well-crafted film but it's impossible to discount how rough it is. Since Lisbeth is a ward of the state, she's required to check in periodically with her case worker, who just happens to be a sexual predator. What Lisbeth goes through is deeply disturbing. How she gets even is graphically depicted — and it ain't pretty.
The working partnership between Blomqvist and Lisbeth is a strange dance of wariness, respect and sexuality that ultimately produces startling results. Daniel Craig is great, but Rooney Mara is spectacular. The film includes a cast of amazing supporting characters. Wright as Berger, Stellan Skarsgard as Martin Vanger, Steven Berkoff as the Vanger family's attorney … well, they're all terrific and provide depth to a very complex story.
Again, for those not familiar with "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," I can't offer enough warnings. The scenes of rape, murder and torture are not sugar-coated. And, for those who are familiar with the story, purists will be distressed by a few plot-line alterations, especially at the end of the film.
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is rated R for very good reason, and I'm giving the film three very cautious stars.
Doug Wright is host of the KSL Movie Show on Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM.