Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Director David Fincher makes another version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo only three years after the original, but he does it better.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo follows the story of Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) as they hunt down a killer of women.  The plot opens up with Blomkvist being convicted of slander and stepping down from his position is his magazine company in order to preserve its image.  I was a fan of the novel that this film is based on but Blomkvist’s early scenes with his company and legal troubles felt tedious and unnecessary.  Similarly to the problems faced when George Lucas decided to make an entire trilogy about Darth Vader, it was an origin that would have been better off explained in a few sentences rather than being given so much time.  Fincher must have felt the same way because in this version Blomkvist is out in the snow and starting his investigation in only minutes.

A man named Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) has been receiving flowers in the mail every year, a ritual performed by his niece that has long since disappeared.  Distressed by the thought that the girl’s murderer is going out of their way to torment him, Vanger hires Blomkvist and eventually Salander to reopen the case.

Anyone who has seen The Social Network knows what to expect here from David Fincher.  The editing keeps things moving at a brisk pace with no scene lingering unless it has a reason to do so.  Characters are well-defined from the moment that they step on the screen and everything is filmed in a manner that adequately captures the overall mood.

The most noticeable difference between the 2009 Dragon Tattoo and Fincher’s movie is in the presentation of the title character Lisbeth Salander.  In the earlier film she is presented as some sort of unstoppable force that shopped at Hot Topic.  When bad things happened to her you never doubted for a moment that she was going to take her revenge.  Noomi Rapace gave us a fine performance but her version of the character never showed us the kind of vulnerability that Rooney Mara has.  In the 2011 film Lisbeth Salander better resembles the source material as a mentally unstable woman with a legal dependency.  When observing her emotional detachment you can’t help but wonder whether one would find scales beneath her skin.  She shies away from eye contact, struggles to take part in conversations that she actively tries to avoid, and reacts to terrible acts with only silence.  The film does a great job at recreating the shock from the book when the audience fully realizes Salander’s deep capacity for violence.  As a result she becomes one of the most interesting movie characters in recent memory.

I want to recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as one of the last great movies of 2011, but audiences should be warned that it does contain some highly graphical sexual and violent content.  Just be careful who you see it with and you’ll be in for a great time.

Learn more the author of this post:

Keith Ballard
I run a gaming channel on Youtube called TheSaDGames and occasionally write about games. I can be contacted on Twitter as @SebastianSB.