Dark, slimy bodies grinding, punching, hitting each other, all set to Karen O.'s throbbing cover of Led Zepplin's "Immigrant Song" first welcome you to the nightmarish world of Lisbeth Salander in the opening credits of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. And the film only gets more gruesome from there.
Based on the 2008 bestselling trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, director David Fincher's adaptation of the story is daring, violent, and in-your-face sexy, all rolled into one slick Holllywood package. Even if you haven't yet read the books or seen the 2009 Swedish version [editor's note: I haven't], chances are you'll still appreciate this action-filled wild ride. Rooney Mara is Lisbeth Salander, a pale, pierced and tattooed goth club kid and product of the state who secretly makes a living hacking computers.
She's recruited by shunned ex-journalist Mikael (played by Daniel Craig) who is trying to solve the murder of Harriet Vanger, a 16-year-old who presumingly was killed in the '60s. The two take up residence in a cottage in northern Sweden to solve the mystery for aging Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) as his last wish before he dies. But although the two protagonists are working together on the crime, it's clearly Lisbeth's story from the beginning.
Her eyes are weirdly vacant, her personality is frigid, she has a violently haunting past- and Mara inhabits this role entirely. Totally unrecognizable with her short blunt-cut bangs and stone-cold expression, she quietly hints at Lisbeth's human side without sacrificing her literal and emotional strength. She might be able to speed down icy mountains at 100 mph on her motorcycle or singlehandedly take down her creepy ward, but Lisbeth is still not perfect.
With compelling performances like Mara's and Craig's and a pulsing soundtrack courtesy of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (can you guys just score every film from now on, please?), this glossy remake left us exhausted- our hands were tense long after it ended. But then again, isn't that kind of the point? After all, Lisbeth's story gets under our skin, which is exactly the quality that makes it so damn brilliant.