The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Now with less subtitles

Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is hired by reitred CEO Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to solve the case of Harriet Vanger, his niece who has been missing for forty years and believes one of his family was responsible for murdering Harriet. Mikael manages to uncover a link between Harriet and a serial killer of women, and asks for the help of cyberpunk computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara).

The film opens with an astonishing set of title credits which, to be blunt, will make devotees of David Fincher jizz in their pants. You may not be able to understand what is being shown to you 100% of the time, but Fincher ensures that doesn't detract from your enjoyment as Trent Reznor's astounding cover of "Immigrant Song" pounds away to the beautiful visuals which inhabit the screen.

It was difficult to imagine anyone other than Noomi Rapace, because she did such a terrific job in the Swedish adaptations, but astonishingly, Rooney Mara manages to step out of the shadow cast by Rapace and give a darkly intense performance which matches her predecessor. One thing I feel I should mention is how much of a physical transformation Mara went through for this role. While Rapace had a few piercings and a fringe, Mara additionally shaves off her eyebrows and, in one scene, sports a mohawk.

Fincher manages to make us care more for Salander by allowing the viewer to see past her hardened exterior and see a more vulnerable side to her, as we see the friendship she has with her previous legal guardian rather than his heart attack merely being mentioned only in an off-handed comment, and her scene in the shower did a great job of showing a sense of vulnerability to her character. We also get to see more of a relationship between Blomkvist and Salander, making the characters feel warmer and more likable. But just because we see a warmer and more vulnerable side to Lisbeth, this doesn't mean she's lost any of her hard edge, as proven when she confronts her current legal guardian with a tazer and a big golden object that'll make the men watching wince.

Daniel Craig gives a much stronger portrayal of Mikael Blomkvist. Don't get me wrong, I liked Michael Nyqvist's portrayal, but I felt Craig gave a much more engaging performance that left me more interested in the character than I had been in the previous adaptation, and the lack of a Swedish accent did not detract me from the film in anyway.

When I saw the Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel, I found myself early on preferring the scenes involving Lisbeth Salander to Mikael Blomkvist's ones, feeling they were more engaging to watch and, while I liked Blomkvist's character, I felt he did not truly capture my attention until he started sharing scenes with Salander. In this film, I found myself just as engaged in Blomkvist's individual early scenes as I was with Salander's individual scenes.

If Mark Zuckerberg could see her now...

David Fincher brings a great style to this film that was absent from Niels Arden Oplev's Swedish adaptation, managing to entice you into a world of anal rape and horrible murder through wonderfully beautiful snowy visuals. The rape scenes may not feel necessary to the overall story, but they are necessary in order to develop the character of Lisbeth Salander, and cement her reputation as a bad ass female character, ranking up there alongside The Bride from Kill Bill and Ripley from Alien.

I'm not going to spoil to you who the villain actually is, but I would like to say that the person who portrayed the serial killer did an utterly tremendous job pulling off the villainous character and the way they managed to switch from menacingly calm to filled with anger with such ease is deserving of some award nominations, at least. And they have done for "Sail Away" what Malcolm McDowell did for "Singing in the Rain" back in A Clockwork Orange, meaning I will never be able to hear that song in the same way again.

The soundtrack, composed by Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, has to be one of the best film soundtrack's I have heard all year, ranking alongside the soundtrack to Drive. The main song accompanying this film, as shown in the teaser trailer and in the aforementioned title credits, is a cover of Led Zepplin's "Immigrant Song", with vocals by Karen O being accompanied, and let me warn you, it will stick in your brain, making you legally download it to your phone, just so you can have the temptation to hear it thousands of times over and remind yourself of how awesome it truly was.

If I had to find a fault, I would have to say that the conclusion managed to go one for a bit longer than it should have, but don't worry, it was nothing like Return of the King's never-ending ending, it just felt a bit stretched out, but i'm willing to overlook that.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo manages to feel like a harken back to David Fincher's early days in filmmaking, as it feels a bit like Seven (especially considering the opening credits sequence), only with the 16 years of experience that he's gotten since making that film. His adaptation of Stieg Larsson's best selling novel is utterly captivating


Jeff SC said…
Gah, I'll just have to watch it already, I've read too many reviews talking about how great it is... Do you think I should watch the original first, though? Nice work, Rodders!
James Rodrigues said…
@Jeff SC it depends, really, whether you want to judge this film on it's own merits or compare it with the Swedish version. If you watch the Swedish film, you can familiarize yourself with the story and compare it with Finchers version whilst watching the film, see which parts you prefer between the two. It's really up to you, man
FUCK. It really had an effect on you. Wish I get to see it too!!
H.A.K. said…
Excellent review Rodders. The title credits in the beginning were indeed pretty awesome. I forgot to mention that in my review. ah well. ;)
James Rodrigues said…
@OMFGITSROHIT Yeah it did, this was pretty much the first 18 Rated film I saw in cinemas, and I couldn't have chosen a better film.

@H.A.K Yeah, some of the best title scenes i've seen in a film to date.
yaykisspurr said…
Yeah I went and read reviews on this movie to try to convince my mates to see it...they were so bad that even I paused about seeing it. I think it would make a great post for myself to compare the two as you did.

Anyway great post, you inspire me as always. Cheers...