Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Directed By: David Fincher

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård.

Rating:   Running Time: 158 Minutes.

Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a journalist for a business magazine, finds his reputation and his finances in ruins after losing a court case for liable against industrial businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström. Meanwhile, researcher and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), working for a security company, delivers a thorough background check on Blomkvist to her boss and their client, a lawyer working for Henrik Vagner (Christopher Plummer), the retired CEO of his company Vagner Industries. In it she advises that despite his oversight in his liable case, he is ‘clean’ as he appears to be.

Blomkvist is asked to meet with Vagner at his house, and is shown the collection of framed crushed flowers that his niece Harriet gave him for a present each year, several of which were sent before Harriet’s unsolved murder almost 40 years earlier, and the rest which he received, one each year, sent by her killer, whom Vagner believes to be a member of his family. Blomkvist is offered the job of investigating the the murder under the guise of writing his biography and declines at first, but agrees after being told he will receive proof of Wennerström’s corrupt business practices, and moves into a small cottage on the Vagner estate. Asking for a researcher to assist him, Blomkvist discovers that abackground check was done on him, and after reading it, meets with Lisbeth, offering her the job of assisting him to find Harriet’s killer.

I have to admit to being a huge fan of David Fincher’s work, with the exception of The Game (which I still admit is a good movie), I have loved every one of his movies, from thriller Seven, his adaptation of Chuck Palinuk’s social commentary book Fight Club (which is near the top of my personal favourite movies list), troubled psychological thriller Panic Room, and even the much troubled and dis-liked Alien³. His last movie The Social Network which was also a very good movie, felt as though he was aiming below his level as a film maker, resulting in a movie that was successful but to me lacked his visually impressive style. For The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, another take on the Stieg Larson book that was previously adapted into a Swedish tele-movie, I’m glad to see that he has returned to true form, with a visual style much more recognisable as his own. The movie is a solid assembly of good story, writing, casting, and direction that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, if slightly over long 158 minutes.

The running time is most likely because of the original source material (which I have not read, nor have I seen the Swedish tele-movie), with the first 20-30 minutes being spent carefully following these two characters and ingratiating us into their lives instead of just abruptly entering into them. It’s a rare thing for a big budget movie, and it pays off in spades, emotionally linking us to the characters, in particular Rooney Mara’s character Lisbeth Salander, who undergoes a particularly disturbing series of events including a graphic rape scene that contributed heavily to the movie being passed uncut with an 18 certificate from the BBFC. Full details of the rating can be found at their site via this link, but be warned this does include spoilers.

Craig and Mara give first rate performances throughout, in particular Mara, who gives a thoroughly convincing portrayal of a slightly disturbed individual who has had a hard life as a ward of the state, and deserves an Oscar nomination for her performance. The movie also has a fantastic supporting cast, including as already mentioned Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Robin Wright, Steven Berkoff, and Joely Richardson, none of which lets the movie down. Even the presence of Julian Sands as a young Henrik Vagner in flashback sequences is not able to derail just how great a job Fincher has done with the casting of the movie.

Another thing that absolutely serves the tone of the movie perfectly is the musical score by Trent Reznor and Arricus Ross, who worked with Fincher on The Social Network. Their score here is essential in keeping the pacing of the movie fluid during scenes where the characters are investigating and there is little dialogue, with Fincher deciding to show the characters working things out instead of lazily explaining it to the audience with a voiceover as some directors would and have done on similar movies.

There are only two slight issues that I have with the movie, one being the opening credit sequence, which plays to a fantastic cover of Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song by Raznor featuring Karen O (of group The Yeah Yeah Yeahs). It’s a small issue, but it’s one of note, as it does suit the tone of the movie, but feels very much like a title sequence from a James Bond movie, moreso because of Daniel Craig’s name appearing on screen during it. The other main issue is with the movie’s running time, as the main story of the movie is resolved about the time of a regular movie (around the 120-130 minute mark), with the remaining 20 minutes wrapping up the character’s threads that were so heavily setup at the start of the movie. Had this been intended as a stand alone movie, this would possibly have been left on the cutting room floor, but it remains in the movie to give some closure not to the story, but the characters, again most likely due to the source material from the book, and in order to get them to where they need to be for the second of the three books.

As mentioned, I have yet to see the Swedish tele-movie of this, or it’s sequels, The Girl Who Played With Fire, or The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, but I fully intend to do so, and likewise with the sequels that Fincher intends to make and follow this up. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a taut thriller that most will enjoy, though be warned, some scenes in particular may be too high strung and disturbing. A hard watch, but one thoroughly worthy of the price of admission.

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Posted on January 2, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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