★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2
After seeing the Swedish versions of all three of the movies based on the Millennium Trilogy by late author Stieg Larsson, I was compelled to see how the same subject matter was handled in director David Fincher’s hands. This film, based on the first book of the trilogy which carries the same title, was by far my favorite of the original Swedish films. Honestly, I really didn’t care for The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest; to me, they were boring and lackluster in terms of story and development. This original film, however, I quite and enjoyed, and honestly, I think I enjoyed Fincher’s adaptation here even better.
Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a Swedish journalist who has just lost an absorbent sum of money in a libel suit over an article that appeared in his magazine Millennium that accuses big business owner Hans-Erik Wennerstrom (Ulf Friberg) of criminal activity. Around the same time, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the patriarch of Vanger Industries, another major Swedish corporation, has hired hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) to provide a detailed profile on Blomkvist. Social outcast Salander delivers her report and returns to her personal life, which is plagued with the stroke of her guardian, which in turn, requires her to obtain a new guardian in Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen). Bjurman, however, is a rapist and a pig, and demands sexual favors in turn for supplying Salander her own money. Salander is luckily able to overcome this with a deservedly brutal vengeance. As for Blomkvist, he is subsequently hired by Henrik Vanger to officially write his memoir, but in reality, investigate a nearly 40-year-old case that revolves around his niece, Harriet, who disappeared strangely from the family house all those years prior. Eventually, Blomkvist hires Salander as his assistant and the two delve deeper and deeper into the lives of the strange Vanger family and a case that reveals new evidence at every turn.
As for why I enjoyed this film more than the original Swedish version, I’m sure production value had something to do with it, but even more so, I think it is Fincher’s style as a director. For me, this film felt more connected and entertaining, as well as propelled at a much better pace. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the original adaptation, as I did very much so, but something about this film kept me more intrigued and left me with an even more fulfilled viewing experience. The story seems to flow better, the editing has a wonderful pace, the direction and acting is solid, cinematography very cold and grey appropriately, and the soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is hauntingly beautiful.
It is not clear as to whether the sequels will be made in an Americanized version or not. In interviews, director David Fincher seems content with where this film concluded and doesn’t seem to feel that the sequels are necessary, though he did mention being interested in directing them if they were indeed green lit. In my opinion, the sequels were much weaker than the original story and, like Fincher believes, they are not necessary in regards to having a solid conclusion of this first, and best, entry into the Millennium Trilogy. If they do make the two sequels, however, I hope they can be as good as this one. Possibly some liberties could be taken in the script to make them more entertaining than what I found the original source material.