Release Date: December 20, 2011
Rating: R (for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language)
Genre: Drama,Thriller, Adaptation
Run Time: 158 min.
Director:  David Fincher
Actors: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard, Yorick van Wageningen, Goran Visnjic, Joely Richardson, Julian Sands

CAUTION: The following review contains discussion of mature and explicit subject matter. Parental caution advised for younger readers.

Late author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy has been an international phenomenon. Now we have the inevitable Hollywood entry of the first and most popular book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This dark, seedy material comes with high expectations because of its director David Fincher, an artist no stranger to disturbing cinema (Seven) or critical acclaim (The Social Network).

As modern moviemaking, it’s pretty remarkable. As an experience, at times, it’s downright sick.

To a degree that’s no fault of the film itself, which is a faithful translation of the book (and indeed a superior one to the Swedish version from 2009). Scenes we are asked to endure—including (but not exclusively) rape with elements of bondage and torture—are part of the fabric in Larsson’s text, and certainly will be required elements by fans of the novel the world over. The moments are there in lurid detail because so much of the audience is expecting them to be.

That expectation is far more telling and revealing than anything the movie—for all its praiseworthy craftsmanship—has to offer. It’s one thing for filmmakers to try and force this kind of thing upon an unsuspecting audience. It’s something else entirely when this has become mainstream, and is demanded. People want to see this. Yikes.

Set in Sweden, the crux of the plot revolves around a suspected murder from forty years ago, with a wealthy but very troubled family at the heart of the mystery. Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer, Beginners, who brings a much-needed charm to the heavy proceedings), the aging patriarch, wants to solve the disappearance of his long-lost niece before his health deteriorates further, in the face of familial opposition.

To do so, Vanger hires a famous investigative journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig, Cowboys & Aliens). Recently disgraced in a highly-publicized trial, Blomkvist seeks both professional and personal redemption, but with a case this cold he must hire someone with more unconventional (i.e. illegal) methods to uncover truths that have been carefully hidden for decades.