Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 David Fincher)

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If you like glossy, psychological thrillers then you will like David Fincher's remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo based on the late Stieg Larsson's first novel from his Millennium trilogy.

I have not read any of Larsson's books but I knew it was immensely popular. Nor have I seen the Swedish film regarding the same novel. This review is for the American film directed by David Fincher. The movie opens with a pumping rendition of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song and quick cuts of images bathed in what looks like black tar. You knew right away that you were going to watch something with a complicated plot and you had better settle down and pay attention. The first 30 minutes shows vignettes regarding the background of Lisbeth Salander, the antihero, Mikael Blomkvist the main character, and how they get involved with the wealthy, powerful, and corrupt Vanger family. Blomkvist is a discredited journalist for Millennium magazine, who takes up an assignment at the request of Henrik Vanger, the patriarch of one of the most prominent families in Sweden. Vanger wants Blomkvist to investigate his family of "thieves, misers, bullies, the most detestable collection of people" -- to solve a family mystery; the disappearance of Harriet, his granddaughter, that occurred 40 years ago. Blomkvist needs a research assistant to help him in solving the mystery. He is referred to Salander, a 23-year-old alienated, streetwise, bisexual computer hacker with phenominal abilities and a troubled past. As Blomkvist and Salander delve further into the mystery, they find a family pockmarked by dissipation, nazis, and major family dysfunction. The duo tries to solve the riddle in Harriet's bible and find that Harriet's disappearance is tied to the violent murders of several women in Sweden. Working with Blomkvist, Salander lets her guard down with a man she doesn't consider predatory and can actually trust. As they get closer to solving the mystery, Blomkvist is shot at by an unknown assailant, Henrik Vanger has a heart attack, and the rest of the family may send Blomkvist and Salander packing, preferring to let sleeping dogs lie.

The filmgoer should be warned right now that the R-rating is deserved. The sex is not gratuitous but it is somewhat explicit. In fact the sex scenes are not sexy and there is a rape scene. Sweden looks really cold and there seems to be a remote quality to the relationships.

Rooney Mara play Lisbeth Salander, as an abandoned waif with minimal social skills, repressed feelings, facial piercing, no eyebrows and goth outfits. She emanates self-hatred in a quiet way. Salander is a ward of the Swedish state because of a history of violent behavior and her life has been subjected to the indecencies, injustices, and instability of relying on the state and its petty bureaucrats that take advantage of her and to whom she must rely on for support. Mikael Blomkvist is ably played by Daniel Craig. Although their two characters have an intimate relationship, there seems to be zero sex appeal between the two of them. The sex between them is perfunctory and one of convenience. I'm not sure if that's because they play Swedish characters or if that's how the Swedish author depicts the relationship. One of the more interesting characters is Henrik Vanger, superbly acted by Christopher Plummer. Plummer sees Henrik as a proud industrialist who is lord of all he surveys and is satisfied by his business accomplishments but anguished by what he considers his failures in his family life. Plummer plays Henrik with a wry aplomb and you can't help but sympathize with his character. David Fincher directed this movie with a highly stylized appearance with lots of quick cuts, multiple scene changes, interspersed with flashbacks to keep the story moving. What moviegoers will find engrossing is the search for Harriet and the intrigues surrounding the Vanger family and how it ties it with even more unresolved murders that have not been uncovered. The movie tells a very good story.

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Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago

Sounds like an interesting film. I actually saw the original a few days ago, when I visited my mom for the holidays. However, I'll probably have to see the original AGAIN though before seeing this movie, as she sort of has a tendency to want to talk while watching a movie. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that, but if I'm supposed to compare the original to the remake like she's requested, then I would need to see both versions uninterrupted, as it's hard to analyze a film when someone keeps talking to you about random stuff. lol. Oh well. I still love her though. lol.

However, based on your review, it doesn't sound like it strays away from the original as much as my mom feared, and off the brief moments i did catch when I wasn't distracted. As for the sex scenes, I do remember the original had sex scenes also, but I think they're a lot more graphic than what you're telling me about the remake here, as they even showed Salander getting raped twice in the first film. Trust me, it's very graphic, and realistic too, as you could almost swear that it was almost too realistic if you catch my drift.

However, it sounds like a good movie that Ill be sure to check out soon. Anyway, I hope you had a merry christmas though, and a happy new year in case i don't see you for a while. :)


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 4 years ago from The East Coast Author

Hi Steven, I am looking forward to your review and what you think of the American version since you have the Swedish version as a comparison. I am now curious to see how the Swedish film was done and even more curious about the trilogy. I'm adding to my reading list.


Indigital 4 years ago

Was going to buy this as a book - if it's such a good film I doubt the book will be bad.


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 4 years ago from The East Coast Author

Indigital, the book and the film are two different mediums and this film can definitely stand on its own. It's worth seeing but I would also still read the book.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada

I really enjoyed the Swedish movie with Sven Bertil-Taub as the journalist. It tended to move with glacial speed (in the great Scandinavian theatrical tradition) but it was fascinating, well-acted and certainly worth the time it took for everything to "develop." I can't say that the main characters were in love by any stretch, but by the end, the journalist certainly became her friend and eventually came to care for Salander. I watched the second movie in the series (in Swedish with English subtitles), and it was similarly slow moving, but well worthwhile, also. It was clear by the end of the second movie, that the two loners definitely care about each other - if nothing else, as friends with fringe benefits.


Jewelz1313 profile image

Jewelz1313 4 years ago from Branson, Missouri

I saw the movie and will eventually read the book. Books are just so much better in my opinion. The movie was good, but the one I watched was not in English so it took away from my enjoyment. I loved the fact the she got that old pervert back. There were some scenes that were a little rough to watch, but it had to happen. I love movies when females take back there lives that have been stolen from them.-Looking forward to reading this book.


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 4 years ago from The East Coast Author

Hi RedElf, I want to watch the Swedish version to see how a different director interprets the same material.


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 4 years ago from The East Coast Author

Hi Jewelz, I was glad that there was a male author who has a strong female character who fights back and defends not only herself but other women as well. Agreed, the man was a pig and deserved what he got.


GregDinskisk profile image

GregDinskisk 4 years ago from Michigan

I HAVE to say this, sorry. The movie was NOT a remake... it was another adaption of the same movie... Like the Will Smith "I am Legend" and "Omega Man."

Sorry, that was needed.

And, this was a very good review, well thought out.

Thank you for this Hub.


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 4 years ago from The East Coast Author

Thank you GregDinskisk.

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