Mikael Blomkvist has been charged and found guilty for libel with an article published in his magazine, Millenium, by the corrupt Swedish industry owned by Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. While celebrating Christmas with his family, he gets a call from Henrik Vanger to meet with him about a job opportunity. Mikael learns that he is being tasked with attempting to solve a murder that has gone cold for about 40 years on a private island owned and populated by the Vanger family. Living in seclusion, he begins to investigate each of the family members and their memories of the day Harriet went missing. Everyone is a suspect as Mikael figures that the person responsible for Harriet’s disappearance had to be somehow within or closely connected with the family. Meanwhile, ward of the state Lisbeth Salander, who was partially responsible for helping the Wennerstrom lawyers put together the case on Mikael, is struggling with her status with her new guardian. Mikael’s and Lisbeth’s paths finally meet when she is sought out to help Mikael as his assistant in the hunt for Harriet’s killer, and potentially the killer of a group of other women.
Starring (2009): Michael Nyqvist (Mikael Blomkvist), Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander), Lena Endre (Erika Berger), Sven-Bertil Taube (Henrik Vanger), Peter Haber (Martin Vanger), Peter Andersson (Nils Bjurman), Marika Lagercrantz (Cecilia Vanger), Ingvar Hirdwall (Dirch Frode), Bjorn Granath (Gustav Morell), Ewa Froling (Harriet Vanger), Michalis Koutsogiannakis (Dragan Armanskij), Annika Hallin (Annika Giannini)
Starring (2011): Daniel Craig (Mikael Blomkvist), Rooney Mara (Lisbeth Salander), Robin Wright (Erika Berger), Christopher Plummer (Henrik Vanger), Stellan Skarsgard (Martin Vanger), Yorick van Wageningen (Nils Bjurman), Geraldine James (Cecilia Vanger), Steven Berkoff (Dirch Frode), Joely Richardson (Anita Vanger), Goran Visnjic (Dragan Armanskij), Donald Sumpter (Detective Gustav Morell), Ulf Friberg (Hans-Erik Wennerstrom), Tony Way (Plague)
In the two versions of the film, there are some great performances by each of the casts. The 2009 version included an international cast led by the Michael Nyqvist as Mikael and Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth. Nyqvist plays a determined reporter who starts to uncover the little details that break the case wide open. He portrays an inquisitive element that helps to frame his character’s sense of discovery. Rapace is a bit more troubled in her portrayal of the challenged youth. She clearly displays a highly-developed mind and dark side that propel her character into the dangerous and unpredictable behaviors of a socially-stunted but brilliant investigator and hacker. As the film moves very quickly, the other characters are certainly important but do not exhibit the same development as seen in the American version.
The recent American release of the film still included an international cast but highlighted different qualities and behaviors in each of the characters. Daniel Craig generally displays more confidence in his films but this role takes him into a slightly different element. While he still highlights more rouge behaviors with his willingness to push the boundaries of investigation, he also seems somewhat helpless at times, which brings opportunity for the rashness and strength of Lisbeth to help him continue to push forward. In contrast to the presentation by Rapace, Rooney Mara comes off much more dark and twisted. Her version of brooding makes Rapace seem almost cheerful. While both exhibit violence, Mara seems much more hellbent on vengeance for his messed up life. As the aging Henrik Vanger, Christopher Plummer comes off very determined to discover the truth about his beloved Harriet. Stellan Skarsgard plays the devious Martin Vanger, who is both kind and deceiving during his interactions with Craig. Through his assistance of Craig’s character, Steven Berkoff seems to be one of the only friends Craig has besides Mara and Plummer.
Starting with Niels Arden Opley’s version, the film has a much faster progression through the story. Though Mikael is the one who starts to investigate the murder, Lisbeth is not far behind and stays tapped into his network while spying on him. All of his work takes place between the end of his trial and the start of his 6-month prison sentence. It takes little convincing for Lisbeth to sign on to help. She is resistant of any kindness Mikael shows her but she also continues to warm up to his respectful approach to her wariness. Their investigation unveils the connections between a number of murders but it is the financial records that appear to be the icing on the cake for blowing the investigation wide open. While the trail leads to some cause to believe Harald as the guilty party, Lisbeth’s additional research has the potential to uncover the real truth. An additional element of this story is that Mikael has a direct connection with the family, as he was in their care during one summer as a child, which plays into the discovery process. Similarly, there is a short meeting with Lisbeth’s mother, who helps to unveil a little more about the backstory to Lisbeth’s troubled past.
David Fincher takes his recent success with the Social Network and pulls in a little of the murder investigation feel of Seven to turn this story into a darker version as compared to its original. Lisbeth is much more disturbed and acts in line with what is identified as a rough past. Though there is virtually no detail to the reasons she was driven into a rough existence, her development with Bjurman as her caretaker is much more seedy and troublesome, as well as graphic. Lisbeth only investigated Mikael up until he was convicted, but did not have any further interaction with him until he arrived at her doorstep with an offer to get involved in the investigation. Their relationship is just as rocky as the original version, but she does not seem to start warming up to him until after he is shot in the woods and she helps to sew him up. Henrik has a similar medical emergency as in the original, but the incident leaves him locked up and out of touch from Mikael for the bulk of the investigation. Lisbeth’s past is hardly a discussion point, only being brought up once near the end of the investigation in a brief conversation between Lisbeth and Mikael.
This is a hauntingly disturbing film with a gripping soundtrack in the 2011 version, orchestrated by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. While the original is a little more reserved in their music score, Reznor and Ross use a combination of electronic and metal fusion tracks to counter the near silence technique used in Social Network. The fusion tracks help to signify increasingly intense moments within the film or scenes where action is fast-forwarding, leading toward a new direction in their investigation. The more silent-like track help to build the suspense prior to a traumatic event. These scenes let the sounds of the room serve more to highlight the action than the emotion from the music.
Both films have their positive elements, but the darker 2011 version takes the spotlight as a possible Oscar contender for the upcoming award show. Craig and Nyqvist give solid performances, but it is Mara and Rapace that steal their scenes through their intensity and intriguing personalities.
2009 Version- Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5
2011 Version – Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5