Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (U.S.)


In one hand, I hold Clerks (Smith,1994), rated R18 by the Australian Ratings Board. In my other, I hold Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino,1992), also rated R18. Suppose I had a hand spare, I’d be pointing out the comically bad Saw 3D (Satan himself made this wreck,2010), also rated R18. These films have multiple things in common, the obvious one is their rating, and they all are pretty hilarious films at points (or with Saw 3D, the entire film). Not a single one of them is comparable to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Fincher, 2011) which was bizarrely rated M15+ despite being more graphic, containing heavier adult themes, and being a hell of a lot more disturbing than any of the prior listed films.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tells us the story of Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist who apparently has the investigative skills to single-handedly solve a missing persons case that the police didn’t solve 40 years ago. At least, that’s what Henrik Vanger thinks. As it happens, he’s wrong. Before long, Blomkvist requires the assistance of the sociopathic genius and hacker, Lisbeth Salander. You may think this sounds like the opening to a buddy-cop sitcom… but you’re wrong. As always.

David Fincher took a step back to 1995 to take a page out of his film Se7en and brought it back to us again, though now it’s amped up to 11, with this very dark and stylish crime thriller. Style is one of Fincher’s strong suits, and the beautiful cinematography constantly reminds us of this, and it feels executed to it’s fullest. Fincher hasn’t done this alone, though, This time he’s brought Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara along for the ride, playing Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander respectively.

These characters have some serious on-screen dynamics. Never over the top or underplayed, these characters are convicted to every minute of the film, and every moment watching them was a pleasure through their brief but entertaining banter. The rest of the cast is a mix of quirky, insane and calm. None of the expanded cast makes error but Henrik Vanger (played by Christopher Plummer) holds the spotlight the strongest, despite the briefness of his appearances. His narrated stories captivate the audience and pull them into an immersion the previous 15 minutes hadn’t yet achieved.

"I need you solve the mystery. Of my moustache."

If you’re looking for a disturbing film (aside from the hideous Jack and Jill), this is the one! Just a warning, though, this film is disturbing… Very, very disturbing. In fact, Yorick van Wageningen was found locked in a room, crying after shooting one of the many scenes which will make you want to turn away for it’s entirety. Harder still, this is a slow film; the disturbing scenes are present for extensive on-screen periods. Even the hardest of film-goers will be uncomfortable watching parts of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Heck, having previously seen the original Swedish film I was still not prepared to watch this again, and every punch it threw continually caught me off guard.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is an English adaption of a Swedish film of the same name, which in turn was an adaption of a book of the same name by Stieg Larrson. I have not read the book (kill me now if you so wish), but I have seen the Swedish film, itself quite fantastic. So, the big question, how does it compare? Well, originally I thought nobody could replace the original Lisbeth (played by Noomi Rapace), but both actors put in stellar performances. Though, Mara’s Lisbeth seemed to be a bit more fragile and emotional than her Swedish counterpart, which was a good touch to the already impressive performance. Aside from that, Fincher’s darker (and more graphic) vision doesn’t help it’s accessibility, but makes for a much more powerful film. No, the film didn’t need to be remade, but think of it as putting pepper sauce on steak. Yes, this remake is better than the original, though only marginally.

"If only I put on my glasses before choosing this sweater."

The other difference of the two is the films’ endings. While the Swedish film goes for a brighter ending which follows the book a lot closer, Fincher’s darker ending (which seems more suitable, and helps the character story’s wrap up a bit more in this extra 30 minutes added after the climax) also leaves room for the audience to anticipate a sequel (which I don’t doubt majority of the audience will be happy for). It should be noted, however, that Fincher’s film feels complete without the sequel (which is yet to be confirmed, so thank God, else we have another Beyond Good and Evil), and none of the open questions feel emphasised or tacked on. [Update: Sony has now confirmed they’re moving forward with the sequel, though Fincher isn’t confirmed to return still.]

I find it hard to recommend this film to anyone because it’s a very graphic and disgusting film which will make you despise the human race (if you for some reason don’t already). But I’ll revisit this film multiple times and, if you can stomach it, this artful piece will captivate you entirely. It truly provides to the argument that film is a serious art form (it may even make up for the ground lost by Transformers 2).

Score: 9 out of 10!

Image captions by G-FUNK