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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

A 2011 movie directed by David Fincher.

< read all 15 reviews

A Very Dark, Brutal, and Gripping Film.

  • Dec 21, 2011

Following the very successful adaptation of Stieg Larssons millennium trilogy into three very successful Swedish language films, it came as no surprise when Hollywood announced that it would be making an English-language version of the series. Director David Fincher was announced to craft the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The new version follows very close to the original material with one fairly big exception which I will detail later in the review.

Daniel Craig stars as Mikael Blomkvist, who at the opening of the film has recently lost a court case for which he was being sued for libel by a prominent business figure. His career is in ruins and virtually all of his savings gone as a result of the trial and punitive damages. So when he is contacted by an attorney representing the wealthy and powerful Vanger family, he agrees to meet. Although highly reluctant to take a meeting, Mikael takes the four hour train ride north of Stockholm to a cold and remote island to meet with Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Henrik wishes Mikael to investigate the disappearance of his niece some 40 years earlier, a niece vanished under the families’ very noses and not a trace of her has been discovered since. Henrik is convinced that she has met with foul play, yet every year on his birthday, he continues to receive a gift of ornate pressed flowers in an anonymous package.

Henrik believes that the killer is haunting him by sending the gifts and that a member of his family may be to blame. Although skeptical of being able to find anything 40 years later, Mikael accepts the case and soon sets up residence in a small cabin on the island and begins his investigation by combing through police reports, conducting interviews, and examining photographs and newspaper clippings. Mikael had been warned that the other members of the Vanger family may not be too thrilled with his presence as not only is the family fractured, they all have their share of secrets.

At the same time, a very Goth punk girl named Lisabeth (Rooney Mara), is fighting her own demons. Lisabeth is an extremely gifted computer and surveillance expert who specializes in gathering background information on individuals. As such, her skills have made her in high demand with her employer. Unfortunately, Lisabeth is also a deeply antisocial person who is prone to lash out violently if provoked. Much of this stems from an extremely traumatic childhood spent in institutions which resulted in Lisabeth being placed as a ward of the state, not deemed competent to care for herself. This arrangement requires her to check in on a regular basis with a representative who, unfortunately for her, has recently suffered a stroke and places her in the care of the new guardian.

The new guardian subjects Lisabeth to horrific demands just so Lisabeth can access her money. The traumatized Lisabeth does not play victim long and in a twist of fate, is assigned by Henrik’s attorney to assist Mikael since she did the background check on him prior to Mikael being approached by Henrik for the investigation. The unlikely duo combined to form a highly efficient pair as they start to piece together the clues which indicate a brutal string of murders leading back for decades. As they work together, the relationship deepens and the reserved Lisabeth starts to come out of her shell. Tension mounts as danger surrounds them in an epic race against time to solve the case that certain members of the family do not want solved.

The film runs approximately 2 hours and 45 min and does take a little while to get started as the landscape and back story of the characters is established. The film has some very dark and brutal moments, which are hard to watch, yet were not as graphic as those in the Swedish language version. Craig and Mara work very well with one another and props to Craig for being willing to put on weight and occasionally looked disheveled to enhance his character.

Mara gives a masterful performance as the complicated Lisabeth, the anti-damsel-in-distress heroine, who subtly shows the many complicated sides to the character. Noomi Rapace first portrayed the character and has gone on to prominent success in Hollywood with a slew of upcoming high profile films. I would expect nothing less for Mara with two other sequels in this series to film. I am sure this breakout performance will not go unnoticed as it is an extremely difficult and daring role that few in Hollywood would want to tackle, much less be able to pull off as convincingly as she did.

I was extremely happy to see that the character names, settings, and situations were not changed in the new version, and it was refreshing to see the film set in Sweden and not relocated to London or New York. The biggest issue I had with the film was with the ending, which deviated from the previous versions. I will not provide spoilers, suffice it to say the resolution was a bit too tidy of a Hollywood ending and in my opinion greatly undermined one of the central characters of the film. That being said the film is a bold and dynamic vision from Fincher and is a deeply dark and disturbing story that is difficult to forget.

4.5 stars out of 5

A Very Dark, Brutal, and Gripping Film.

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May 01, 2012
Good review!
December 26, 2011
I enjoyed this review. It gave me something to think about before going to see the film.
December 22, 2011
Great film but I preferred the Swedish original in some ways. It just felt more raw and gritty but this one had a more poilished direction and style Nice one! Thanks!
December 21, 2011
I haven't seen this one but, the trailer intrigued me and this looks like something I'd really enjoy. I LOVE anti-damsel-in-distress heroines. Great write-up, thanks for sharing!
More The Girl with the Dragon Tatto... reviews
review by . December 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
David Fincher's Stylish, Dark, Sexier
When I first heard of the American remake of the Swedish film released in 2009 based on the internationally acclaimed novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (original title “The Man Who Hate Women”), I have to admit I wasn’t too excited; that is until I learned that director David Fincher would be at its helm. Fincher is a director whose works I liked from “Se7en”, “Fight Club” and even “The Zodiac”. The film is more of a re-interpretation …
review by . March 01, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Nazis, Rape, Torture and Happy Meals.
I'm finally tackling it.      When I got the invite to come to this site almost 4 years ago, there was one topic that dominated my emails about updates on Lunch, and that was this subject:  I don't remember exactly if it was the Swedish films that people were talking about or if it was the novels published after the Author's death but one this was certain:  Whatever this movie or book was about, with a name that could be a James Bond title for a movie: this …
review by . August 27, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Revenge is better when served cold.
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," was one of the most suspenseful novels that I've had the pleasure of reading.      I had also seen the original movie with subtitles and enjoyed that also.      With the 2011 film, directed by David Fincher, I have, once again, been greatly entertained.      The story is based on a Swedish journalist, Mikael Blomkvist suffering a legal defeat on a case where he is accused of slander.   …
review by . July 19, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
***1/2 out of ****    By now, we all know the story. Corrupt Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) - having just lost a libel case against the billionaire Hans-Erik Wennerstrom - accepts a job given to him by the affluent Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to re-open and solve a 40-year old case involving the old man's niece Harriet, who went missing all those years ago at an annual family gathering and as of now is still considered murdered, although there doesn't …
review by . December 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Watching the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I was actively engaged with its dual storylines, but I also found myself pondering which of the two was the more important. Now that David Fincher has made an English-language remake, I find myself pondering what went wrong. Here is a mystery thriller so cold, so distant, and so lacking in energy that it feels neither mysterious nor thrilling. It follows the plot of the original …
review by . December 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Dragon Tattoo Take 2
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Written by Steve Zaillian Directed by David Fincher Starring Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard   Armansky: I’m concerned you won’t like her. She’s different. Frode: In what way? Armansky: In every way.   I always say that film criticism is an inherently subjective practice and reviewing David Fincher’s remake of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is the perfect example to prove this. It has …
review by . January 08, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
If there were an award for most unsettling film of 2011 or best use of black eye-liner, David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be a shoe-in. That’s not to say it isn’t a good movie, in fact it’s brilliant. It’s gorgeously shot, beautifully paced, has a once-in-a-lifetime performance by Rooney Mara and strings you along for one of the best mysteries I’ve ever tagged along for. That being said, it’s still one of the darkest, most mature films …
review by . January 03, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
      Fincher's dark and mute direction in his retake of Stieg Larssen's trilogy-novel was somehow expected but I never thought it will turn out to be so haunting and fresh. Spectacular technical detail, from beginning to the very end. A charismatic and harsh sample of great journalism, character study, and thrilling evolution. A variety of dramatic colors and a cold and poisonous atmosphere that made this movie memorable.      The Girl With the Dragon …
review by . January 02, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
After viewing the fairly well-produced and well-adapted "Girl" trilogy of films (based on the Millennium novels by the late Stieg Larrson) by director Niels Arden Oplev, the question, "Why see yet another version of this same story?" (even if it is done in English, Hollywood style) may just cross one's mind especially in a diminished economy where frugality renders duplication superfluous. However close to the perfection of the author's vision Noomi Rapace's performance might have been, Rooney Mara's …
review by . December 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
It has been tough to escape the Millennium trilogy for the past three years. Author Stieg Larsson left his trilogy unpublished, it wasn’t until after his death that the books hit the shelves and became a worldwide phenomenon. It then became a movie made in Sweden which did not shine away from the darker parts of the story with European audiences unafraid to deal with such issues. When trying to make an American version of the film the studios called on none other than David Fincher who previously …
About the reviewer
Gareth Von Kallenbach ()
Ranked #37
I am a syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. My work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site "Skewed … more
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A murder mystery rife with suspense, scandal, sexual abuse, and some supremely intriguing characters,The Girl with the Dragon Tattoois an excellently crafted film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's equally fascinating book of the same name. Larsson's book was also the basis of a 2009 Swedish film (also with the same title), and while the Swedish film was good, this American version is far superior, thanks to fantastic cinematography and livelier pacing that results in a constant, electric tension that drives every second of the movie. The breathtaking footage of a snowy, remote island in Sweden thoroughly exudes bitter cold, and the attention to the smallest details, like the whistling of the wind through a door left ajar, makes the hairs on the back of viewers' necks absolutely prickle. Like the book, the film is long (158 minutes), there's an abundance of dialogue that is never awkward and always efficient, and there are plenty of false endings. The suspense and the intricacy of the mystery are stellar, and even viewers who know the story well will find themselves sucked into the riddle being investigated by journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). The casting is great, as are the performances of all the key actors, but by far the best thing about this film is Rooney Mara, who is utterly believable as the incredibly strong, extremely disturbed Lisbeth Salander, Blomkvist's unlikely assistant. Mara's performance is chillingly real and completely ...
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Director: David Fincher
Release Date: December 20, 2011
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: Mar. 20, 2012
Runtime: 158 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
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