'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' review: A propulsive 158 minutes of highly anticipated darkness

MoviesEntertainmentNoomi RapaceRooney MaraDaniel CraigDavid FincherThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (movie)

*** (out of four)
 
No hard feelings, Danish director Niels Arden Oplev. In helming the poorly paced 2009 Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” you tried your best. But David Fincher now owns you.
 
With his English language take on Stieg Larsson’s massively popular book, the director of “The Social Network” and “Seven” eases up on the story’s rub-your-face-in-the-horror-of-sexual-violence aspects and focuses on a relentless pursuit of justice, not savagery.
 
Even the three people in the universe who haven’t read the book (including yours truly) may now understand what all the fuss is about.
 
Rooney Mara, masking her soft beauty behind drab clothing, face piercings and eyes that say “Don’t F with me,” takes over from Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander, the world’s No. 1 tattooed, motorcycle-riding bisexual hacker. As everyone probably already knows, Lisbeth’s rough life gets rougher when she’s assigned to a criminally sleazy new guardian (Yorick van Wageningen of “The Way”), whose more understated introduction this time around only makes his transition to abusive monster that much more horrifying.
 
Meanwhile Lisbeth’s former investigation subject and eventual partner, discredited journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), has a chance to redeem his reporting skills when Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) assigns him to explore the disappearance of his granddaughter 40 years ago. Why he waited this long to ask for help is anyone’s guess.
 
Does the movie need to be close to three hours long? No. Blomkvist learns about many Vanger family members but uncovers few plausible, intriguing suspects, and issues of professional credibility and financial dishonesty tend to become dwarfed once anal rape and Tasers get involved. The movie pulses anyway. It’s longer but tighter than its predecessor and propelled by a script by Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”) that finds dark humor to temper all the bad behavior.
 
Fincher may not have a case as gripping as in his film “Zodiac,” but he turns Craig’s Blomkvist into less of a bore and Mara’s Lisbeth, whose tattoo has shrunk without diminishing her mysterious charisma, into a living example of the terrors of family and the resilience of one of recent literature’s best badasses.
 
The Swedish movie left a sleepy sensation with a nasty aftertaste; “Tattoo” 3.0 throbs as a tale of good people wanting to right wrongs with the truth if possible, and violence if necessary.

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mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

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MoviesEntertainmentNoomi RapaceRooney MaraDaniel CraigDavid FincherThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (movie)
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