The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard and Robin Wright
Released: 2011

I haven’t read the books.
I haven’t seen the original version of the film.
And I had no idea what it was about until I actually sat down and watched it.
I dropped the ball there.
And I apologise. You will receive your humbly apologetic custard creams in the post shortly.

The Plot:
Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) is a disgraced journalist in the eyes of the public. He is offered a job by a private party to investigate the murder of a young girl, which occurred over forty years ago. In his research, he is aided by a troubled young woman named Lisbeth Salander (Mara).

While the central plot does not focus on Lisbeth herself, she is, as the title suggests, the central figure. And a very intriguing one at that. She is exceptionally well cast, managing a range of different emotions with, what seems to be, a minimal amount of effort. The changes are subtle but alarmingly effective. Her gaze in particular is a powerful weapon, for both character and actress. By not looking directly at her employers, she sends out an air of indifference. Keeping her head down before her legal guardian, she appears almost child-like in her submissive nature. And the unusual chemistry between herself and Mikael is made immediately apparent by their meeting, in which she stares at him both curiously and defensively.

Craig, meanwhile, does an excellent job as Mikael, making him both likeable and relatable. It is difficult to feel bored in the two hours and forty minutes running time when he is onscreen, adding a degree of humanity to the unfurling events. It’s pretty incredible, in fact, that the film is so long and yet, has the audience wanting more as soon as the credits have rolled.

David Fincher has a talent for exploring the darker places of the world, and also for witty dialogue. This feature is no different. Like previous films, his characters cannot simply experience the events as they happen without it having a profound effect on themselves. Mikael’s obsession with unraveling the mystery mirrors that of Robert Graysmith in Zodiac, as he tries to uncover the identity of the Zodiac killer. And despite these grim and often brutal turns of events, there is a dark humour resounding throughout that is reminiscent of the casual banter between Tyler Durden in Fight Club. 

Fincher makes it clear that this is his film from the very beginning (in which we are treated with a spectacularly dark and metaphor-rich opening credits sequence). And, typically, the gritty nature of the film emanates from the cruel treatment of young girls (reminiscent again of Zodiac….and Alien 3 if you include the death of Newt). A particularly sadistic rape scene, which occurs early on, helps set the tense atmosphere of the film. It also made an old couple a few seats down from me jump.

While the two hours and forty minutes will fly by as you take all of this in, there are  minor flaws to the film that almost certainly couldn’t be avoided. One issue that is always making its presence felt in book-to-film adaptations is that there is far more room to deliver information on a few hundred pages than on a hundred or so minutes of film. There are a lot of Swedish place names and character names thrown onscreen that are difficult to remember, or understand the significance of. However, Fincher is prepared for this by ensuring that you remember the important details as they happen with visual trickery and devil-may-care to the rest.

The other issue, that is becoming alarmingly apparent in recent years, is the need for an American remake. Most people probably know that the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo film was directed by Niels Arden Oplev and released in 2009. While not always a bad thing, these recent remakes have a tendency to simplify the content while increasing the action. As mentioned, I cannot comment on the extent of which the content has been simplified, but the Americanization of the film is made apparent in the action scenes. While thoroughly enjoyable, they sometimes do not feel altogether necessary. And this observation is made without even seeing the original or reading the book.

It is a finely crafted film, and it speaks volumes that the length of the running time isn’t felt at all. Dark, witty, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable. Some scenes might be deemed a little too unsettling, but this is a Fincher film. You get what you pay for.

Rating: 8/10

You will be investigating thieves, misers, bullies, the most detestable collection of people that you will ever meet… family.” – Henrik Vanger

This film is kind of like:

  • A heavy metal night club in Paris


  • Enjoying a fight that you’re going to lose

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks very much, I plan on looking into the original as soon as I get through my sizeable backlog of classic films to watch. These include The Deer Hunter, The Goonies and Gingerdead Man 2.

    I think Fincher has an incredible knack for bringing humor to very dark stories

  2. It’s certainly worth seeing if you missed the original. If you saw it, however, there’s no way of unseeing it, and nothing in the new one to top it. Craig and Mara are great here though and Fincher brings so much more to this film like I was expecting too. Good review.

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