(Drama, R, 152 minutes)
For much of the first hour of David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," you marvel at the movie's sumptuous style, cringe at its grave horrors and wonder why, exactly, Fincher bothered to make it. Fincher's version of the laborious mystery at the center of Stieg Larsson's blockbuster novel initially feels redundant, like an old joke with a tired punch line. But then comes the first scene in which Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara appear on the screen together - and just like that, all is forgiven. Chemistry is one of the few things left filmmakers can't fake with CGI, and the dynamic between Craig and Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is so spontaneous and sensational, it instantly elevates the movie.
Every aspect of this superbly made film is precise, from the creative score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to the gorgeous widescreen compositions by cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth. But the impeccable technique doesn't get in the way of the protagonists' messy emotions. The movie radiates an ice-cold heat.
Beyond its brooding surface, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is an immensely playful movie: Leave it to Fincher to use Enya's airy "Orinoco Flow" as a paean to sinister evil, or turn the sight of a dead cat into gruesome nightmare fodder. The film's astounding opening credits, too, are the work of an artist in a cheerfully dark mood. But the movie doesn't treat the pain of its heroine lightly. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a fabulously sinister entertainment, but it breaks your heart, too. Who expected that?
Rating: 3.5 stars
Info for Parents: Rated R for vulgar language, nudity, explicit sex, rape, violence, gore, adult themes