Swedish story has elegance

Rooney Mara stars in Columbia Pictures' "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO," also starring Daniel Craig.
Rooney Mara stars in Columbia Pictures' "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO," also starring Daniel Craig.

GIVEN its dominance on international bestseller lists and at the box office over the past few years, you’d think we’d know what The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy is all about by now.

Sure, we know Stieg Larsson’s story of a girl sleuth with a giant chip on her shoulder.

Those who have read the books or seen the recent Swedish films, will also know the basic plot: disgraced magazine editor, Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) is hired to investigate an old, unsolved murder.

Over the course of his inquiry, he forms an unlikely friendship and allegiance with a mysterious woman with a large, reptilian tattoo.

Together, they unravel the case, but there is always more to these stories than meets the eye.

The subject matter is generic thriller pap but David Fincher seems to rub the right spot in his English-language take on the Scandinavian phenomenon.

Generally peddled as justice, revenge yanks at something base and primal and triggers our worst instincts.

It’s also a defining force in the world we live in, which is why Lisbeth Salander is such a compelling character as the antidote to the pin-up proportions of Wonder Woman.

Played here by Rooney Mara (the nice girlfriend from The Social Network), Lisbeth often looks like a startled raccoon, but that’s part of her charm.

She’s genuinely horrified by the ambient evil in the world, but she’s learned to fight it and, as a result, we have to champion her cause.

Fincher hands over huge swathes of screen time to his two leads, and even though it keeps the running time over two hours, it lets us settle into the folds and emotional creases of the story.

It even creates enough cracks for moments of humour, which go a long way toward making this dark, moody, cold film feel a lot warmer.

An elegant balance between light and dark, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will silence any of the naysayers who felt the whole American version was little more than a money grab.