For the majority of English-speaking readers who devoured Stieg Larsson’s international bestselling crime thriller trilogy in translation, but never saw the 2009 Swedish film version, this Hollywood reboot from director David Fincher is reasonably compelling. Kudos to Fincher and scriptwriter Steven Zaillian for maintaining the story’s setting in Sweden (not relocating it to, say, New York or L.A.), and assembling an excellent cast. Daniel Craig plays effectively against heroic type as rumpled, middle-aged muckraking Stockholm journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Recently convicted for libel by a powerful enemy, Mikael turns his investigative skills to a literal cold case. Wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), whose heinous family occupies an entire, private island in the chilly northern Swedish archipelago, hires Mikael to solve the mystery of who murdered his niece 40 years earlier. Moving into a guest cottage on the island to piece the story together, Mikael gains an unexpected ally in eponymous heroine Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a pierced, tattooed, Goth computer hacker extraordinaire, whose self-imposed mission in life is to prevent the abuse of women. Mara navigates Lisbeth’s tough, brittle fragility and savvy competence with verve (her guttural howl at the mercy of her slimeball probation officer is bone-chilling).
She and Craig develop a convincing rapport, but an element of more conventional romanticism introduced here makes their relationship less of an emotional revelation than it ought to be. But what’s really missing from thisversion is the ingrained and pervasive sense of white male entitlement at every level of society that was so deftly portrayed in Niels Arden Oplev’s Swedish adaptation. That film shrewdly depicts this subjugation of women, not only by sexual predators, but in the offhand way women are dismissed every day by co-workers, colleagues, government officials, even casual encounters in the street, the climate of perceived feminine inferiority that allows violent, abusive misogyny to flourish. The Swedish film was a harrowing roller coaster ride through these themes that left viewers pummeled and exhilarated, chewing on the subtext. Fincher’s version reduces this theme to a single string of maniacal serial killings, thus containing and defanging Larsson’s intent. (Don’t forget, Larsson’s original subtitle to the first book is “Men Who Hate Women.”) Fincher has made a crisp, suspenseful, extremely well-acted thriller, but it doesn’t quite have the substance or the impact of the original. (R) 158 minutes. (★★★) —LJ Watch film trailer >>>