Review – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

When I first saw the Swedish film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” two years ago, I was completely unfamiliar with the book series by Stieg Larsson. Since then, I have seen both “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” in theaters and recently finished reading “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Needless to say, I’m more familiar with it now that this new version from director David Fincher is here.

Upon first hearing that there would be an American take on the franchise, I was a little upset. The Swedish trilogy JUST came out and those films were pretty good (the second installment is kinda weak, but “Dragon Tattoo” is great and “Hornet’s Nest” is a good conclusion).

The more I thought about Fincher making an American version, though, it all made sense. Looking at some of the past films that he has handled (“Se7en” and “Zodiac” for starters), Fincher has shown dedication to his work as well as the ability to gross audiences out and occasionally scare the pants off us.

I went into the theatre with a fresh sense of the book as well as the original Swedish film, having finished both the night before. From the opening credits, it was obvious that the fans would be pleased with this American offering.

For those who don’t know, “Dragon Tattoo” is about two characters, a computer hacker (Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander) and a journalist (Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist), who must track down the killer of a young girl 40 years after his crime.

The main question for fans going into the film has to be “how does Mara match up with the brilliant performance by Noomi Rapace?”

Noomi Rapace was great for the character and, since I saw her first, will always be Lisbeth Salander for me. However, this new girl does a great job too. Mara has the anti-social behavior down: looking away from people when she’s speaking to them, having little-to-no manners (lots of interruptions, etc.), the anger and just an overall good interpretation.

I’d say Rapace wins me over with her facial expressions though. If you’ve read the books, you know what’s going on inside Salander’s head. I just felt that with each scene of the Swedish film, you knew exactly what the character was thinking despite her silence. Mara does a little bit of this too and she should be commended for a fine performance.

As for Daniel Craig and his in-and-out accent, I think he actually produced a better Blomkvist than Mikael Nyqvist did in the Swedish film. The character felt truer to the books, especially in scenes like the first meeting between he and Salander.

The rest of the cast does a fine job as well with special marks for Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard.

My main gripe with the film is that Salander goes from hardcore biker girl to love-smitten girl too fast. Of course the romantic aspect does happen in all versions of the story, but I think the Swedish adaptation may have had the right idea in playing down the romance. It works fine in the books because we understand Salander’s thought process the whole way, but in the American film, she becomes a little too attached too quickly in my opinion.

And I prefer the book’s, and Swedish film’s, way of handling the end of Harriet Vanger. Those are probably my only two complaints with Fincher’s version.

The film’s source material is rather violent so I hesitate to recommend both it and the film(s) to just anybody. You must first know that the story is immersed with sexual violence against women. it has both very much to do with the killer’s motives as well as the development of Salander. There is a scene or two where the squeamish will cover eyes (and possibly ears).

With that disclaimer out of the way, the film is a fantastic mystery tale with great characters. Fincher orchestrates it all very well and produces a film that makes your skin crawl and spine tingle.

Although I’m more impressed with the Swedish Salander, this American remake overall is an improvement on the original (no small feat).

I hope that we can see more of this team with the Millenium trilogy, but I fear that poor box office returns added with the fact that Fincher probably won’t want to helm sequels means that “Dragon Tattoo” is all we get this time around.

But at least it was a great ride.

Grade: A-

Happy viewing.

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2 thoughts on “Review – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

  1. 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.

    • Thanks for the comments man! I agree with the whole “not being able to unsee” the original. Comparisons are too easy at times, but I thought it was a great adaptation.

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