The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – Film Review

girl with the dragon tattoo movie review

Director: David Fincher
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer
Certificate: 18

by Nate Wisniewski

An all star production team assembles to bring Stieg Larsson’s modern crime classic, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, to screen. It is the first instalment in the ‘Millennium’ series trilogy. And in front of the camera, a mixture of household names and should-be-household names, make it an engaging crime thriller.

The film begins with a slick, Giega-esque computer art animation. Black oil drips over bodies. Bugs and machinery come out of various orifices. This plays out to a cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ by Nine Inch Nails and Karen O. From that cyberpunk opening we are thrown into the snowy Swedish winter. And before we know it we are in the middle of a murder case.

girl with the dragon tattoo film review daniel craig

“Enough light humour”

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth ‘the girl’ Salander (Rooney Mara) piece together the puzzle. In the midst they are trying to sort out of their own lives in a suitably dilapidated old house. And there’s a crazy biker chick that’s sexy in a pasty, ‘too busy taking pills to eat’ kind of way. It’s cool, it’s chic, and there’s enough light humour in it to counterbalance the dark scenes.

Which bring us to the dark scenes. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is not for the faint-hearted. There’s a long rape scene, gruesome murder images and lots of high tension. While it’s all a little extreme for some tastes, it makes narrative sense and never feels like shock tactic horror-porn à la Saw, 59, or whatever. Fans of the book will be happy to know that their beloved franchise hasn’t been airbrushed. Instead, it is held up to the gel lights of cinema by multi Oscar winning scriptwriter, Steven Zaillian (American Gangster, Hannibal, Gangs of New York) and director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club). We are treated to a gritty, stylish crime thriller.

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“Tension builds up well”

Rooney Mara (who worked with Fincher on The Social Network) seems almost unrecognisable as the eponymous tattooed Lisbeth. She’s a defiant anti-hero whose danger exceeds only her charm. A lot of the film’s tension comes from the fact that we know all too well what she – as well as the murderer – is capable. While the whole ‘loose cannon’ thing has been done to death, the character is well rounded and charming enough for us to care. Mara is excellent, as is Craig, who shrugs off Bond by mumbling and stumbling like a true journalist throughout the film.

As a whodunit, the film is not particularly engaging. This is probably because a large part of the film’s target audience already knows ‘whodunnit’. But for whose who haven’t read it – like myself – don’t expect to be too shocked at the end. Still, there’s plenty of suspense. Tension builds up well throughout the film, thanks to some eerie music and a good mixture of isolating and close up shots. It could probably be fifteen minutes shorter. But without breaking any moulds, it has produced a something of a gleaming egg.


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