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“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”—(A Piercing Performance)

It’s not necessary to have read the book to appreciate this movie and this compelling character, Lisbeth Salander.

The acting, the story and the story telling are good. But it is the title character that dominates this film. Her look, her attitude, her intelligence, her sexuality all combine to demand your attention when she is on screen. When she is not on screen, you wonder what her next scene will reveal.

Sure, most of the credit for the character goes to the novelist, but let’s stand up and applaud actress Rooney Mara for bringing life to Lisbeth. This character is a woman who has serious emotional baggage. She takes computer hacking to a new level. She has multiple piercings. She has a stoic, almost blank, disposition. She rides a fast motorcycle. She is a complex individual.

Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist in Sweden who is hired to solve a decades-old family mystery. Mikael himself has been the subject of a background check by Lisbeth. He is impressed that she knows “more about me than my best friends” and brings her aboard to help figure out what happened on that day in 1966 when 16-year-old Harriet vanished.

Christopher Plummer is the family patriarch who gives Mikael the job. Native Swede Stellan Skarsgard plays Harriet’s brother, a key figure in the story. As the pieces of the puzzle are put together, Mikael and Lisbeth learn about other family members and their sometimes peculiar back stories.

The movie has a grit and meanness that can be unnerving. Sex is one thing; violence is another. When the two are combined here, the brutality is disturbing. Be warned: a couple of the scenes are intense.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first of a trilogy. Thanks to director David Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillian for not leaving a cliffhanger to set up the second film. It’s not necessary, because the character of Lisbeth and the incredible performance by Rooney Mara that will bring you (and me) back for more in 2013.

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