Rivers run deep – resentments run deeper
The best thrillers create troubled characters unable to tame their suspicious natures. This type longs to trust someone, but their paranoia disallows such relationships. They seek a remedy by digging into painful truths. It is this interior battle that lends heft to many of the best thrillers.
Author Stieg Larsson, a Swedish magazine journalist who is reflected in the lead male character, said that he initially wrote this book, and its two sequels, to amuse himself. He completed his last manuscript in 2004 and submitted the series for publication. He died suddenly from a heart attack, leaving us to wonder what other terrific works were yet to spring from the 50-year-old.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” is book No. 1, a runaway global hit following its 2005 publication. Larsson’s characters inhabit our minds while his central mystery exposes the fears and grudges frequently defining family relationships.
The series was made into a trilogy of films, the first released in 2009. Many critics hail the Swedish adaptations; others praise this one. Most agree that both versions are strong. Americans generally prefer English dialogue, a plus for this version that juggles and polishes its characters’ subtleties.
Daniel Craig is just shy of great as middle-aged Mikael Blomkvist, the magazine journalist-owner sued by the deep-pocket subject of his recent expose. Blomkvist escapes witnessing the likely demise of his magazine by accepting an offer from elderly Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a business magnate hoping to solve the 40-year-old murder of his then 16-year-old niece Harriet.
Back at the magazine, Blomkvist’s partner, editor and married love interest, Erika (Robin Wright), is displeased to be left holding the bag.
An investigation seems possible because Harriet’s disappearance took place on the family’s island where nearly all the suspects (family members) continue to reside. The complexity of the task mounts when Vanger identifies the owner of each home, then points out which family members no longer speak to one another.
Blomkvist, ensconced in a rustic cabin on Vanger’s property, soon realizes he requires an assistant to sort through boxes of information and run down leads. He chooses Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a brilliant, antisocial 23-year-old labeled as a misfit by authorities. After his recent loss in court, Blomkvist knows the public record leaves much to be desired.
Lisbeth possesses a photographic memory, keen intelligence and many opinions. Her sexuality is either a weapon or tonic as wielded by Mara’s fine performance.
What Blomkvist and Lisbeth find should surprise us more, but the family’s jagged relationships constitute the meat of the mystery.
The two-and-a-half hour runtime requires viewer commitment and close attention to shifting elements.
For additional impact, director David Fincher adds a scene not included in the book. It’s both brilliant and mildly exasperating.
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