Review of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’

Michele December 24, 2011 0
Review of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’
  • Direction
  • Writing
  • Cinematography
  • Plot
  • Music

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Director: David Fincher

Writers: Steven Zaillian, Steig Larsson (novel)

Actors: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Goran Visnjic

Cinematography: Jeff Cronenweth

Music: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross


The first American installment of the popular Swedish trilogy has finally hit theaters. Steig Larsson’s Millennium novels took the world by storm soon after the author’s death. There is already a Swedish movie adaptation that has been pretty popular with American audiences (at least it is with the people that don’t mind reading subtitles while watching a movie). But America always thinks they can do it bigger and better, and for this task they turned to David Fincher. He’s done a great job in the past adapting a popular book into an awesome film (see: Fight Club). His style certainly fits the content of Larsson’s novel. I have to admit that I had some reservations about how the movie would turn out. Being a fan of the books, this picture really worried me:

It missed the point of the books in my opinion, going for more controversy then content.

But I decided to give the movie the benefit of the doubt anyway. I also took it one step further- I decided to also give the movie the benefit of my memory loss. Instead of reading the book just before seeing it on the big screen, I allowed a good period of time to go by before checking out Fincher’s take. Having a bit of a gap between the two mediums allows all the little details of the book to fade in my mind. This makes it hard to nit pick everything that was changed. I recommend this method if you want to enjoy both the movie and the book. It takes some of the pressure off the screen to be exactly like the page. But with a series as popular as this one- will it ever be able to live up to audience expectations?


Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist travels to a remote island at the request of retired businessman Henrik Vanger. In poor health, Vanger wishes Mikael to help him solve the greatest mystery of his life- the dissapearance of his beloved niece Harriet. With the crime happening over 40 years ago the investigation seems hopeless. But Mikeal begins to uncover clues as to what happened with the help of the mysterious hacker Lisbeth Salander. Labelled as a mentally incompetent and violent ward of the state, Salander is actually a strong and misunderstood woman with a photographic memory. They work together to figure out the truth of what happened to Harriet Vanger.

The Good:

Rooney Mara

Lisbeth Salander is an incredibly complex character and the heart of the trilogy. Her outlandish punk appearance, her abrasive and distant personality, her incredible genius, and her ability to beat the shit out of anyone who crosses her all add up to someone who would be difficult to translate on screen. But Mara does an amazing job of bringing her to life. Just looking at the extremes she went to in her appearance tells you how committed she was. But her performance in the movie solidifies the fact that she was the perfect choice for the role. She’s gotten all sorts of praise since the movie premiered and it is very well deserved.

It Follows the Book

As I mentioned before, I allowed a couple months of space in between reading the book and seeing the movie. This makes some details fuzzy, but certainly not all of them. Everyone has those certain things that they remember vividly from the book- the little things that makes them passionate about the book. It’s tough to have those things cut out when you see it on screen. Because it is impossible to turn a novel into a screenplay word for word. As much as readers might want that to happen it would probably result in a movie that is several days long. As far as I’m concerned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hit the perfect balance of staying true to the book. There were some things absent, but it wasn’t enough to really upset me. Because I am definitely one of those people who like to rant and rave about all the things they changed to make the movie suck while the book is amazing. This is one of the few film adaptations that I have enjoyed just as much as the book.

The Intensity

Be forewarned that there are some incredibly intense scenes of violence and rape in this film. If you can’t handle that kind of thing then you should skip this on your holiday movie theater marathon. There were certain scenes in the book where I could barely breathe with all the tension in my body, my fear for what was happening to the characters. Well it’s even tougher to watch on screen than it is to read. My imagination tones down what happened so that I can deal with it. Watching David Fincher’s version forces me to live with that extreme violence. But it was done the right way to make the same powerful statement that the novel makes. I’m a fan of Fincher’s gritty realism. His grim tone fits the novel perfectly. Her gives you the sense of isolation and thrill that is needed for the mystery and for the characters. Be sure to decompress after watching this movie – I suggest watching a cheery holiday cartoon.

The Bad

The Opening Credits

Just because you have one of the actors who plays James Bond in your film does not mean that you can open your movie in the same weird way. For some strange reason there was a music video put at the beginning of the movie- complete with head banging rock and moving liquid figures. As much as I’m a fan of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” as sung by angry goth chicks, I really did not need to listen to the entire song while watching people melt into each other and burst into flames. I hope Fincher doesn’t continue this trend in the next two movies.


Lisbeth’s Relationships

As much as I commend the screenwriter for making a great movie out of an already amazing book, there were some things that were cut out that didn’t really make sense to me. The big one is some of the relationships that Salander has. Granted there aren’t many of them what with her being such a crazy loner. But she does know more people besides her ailing guardian. For instance, Lisbeth goes to visit her mother in the book. Knowing about her mother, and her mother’s brain damage, is important to the rest of the series ( I won’t tell you why – you’ll just have to trust me or read the books for yourself). And the fact that Lisbeth still takes care of her non-responsive mother is an important piece in figuring out her character. The other relationship that is noticeably absent is her lover Mimi. While they show Lisbeth hooking up with some random woman at a bar, I sort of feel that her friendship with Mimi is an interesting look at Salander’s personal life. She doesn’t hang out with many people, so the ones she chooses to spend time with have some significance.

Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an entertaining thriller that I was able to enjoy despite having read the book. But I’m sure that even those people who haven’t picked up the Steig Larsson novels will be able to appreciate it. An intense look at violence, strength, and one of the most interesting characters to grace the page, it delivers a punch to your senses that is hard to shake. Even while preparing for a merry Christmas with my family I’m still thinking about it (and not just because I had to write a review for it). It’s an intense ride- one that I hope to repeat for the next two films in the series.



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